January 29, 2007

Book Review: Sloth

Having finished Sloth, I'm now more than half-way through the Seven Deadly Sins, which, you will remember, I received as a Christmas present. So at least I'm not slothful in my reading.

This volume is quite a departure from the three I've read already. It's different because it's funny. In fact, the whole book is a parody of self-help books and our self-improvement culture. It explains the error of those who have been telling us do this or that all our lives, and teaches us that the secret is to get over the need to do anything.

Thus in a parody of counting calories, we are taught to count "activity points," and not to go over 75 points each day. A chart explains that, for example, reading Shakespeare counts for 400 points, as much exertion as we should make in five days, while sitting and watching cartoons only count for 12.

Then, in the last chapter, comes the big zinger. The real sloths of our time aren't those who sit around and do nothing, but those who fill their lives with so much frenzy and activity that they have no time for passion or creativity. Such people are keenly described:
Their purpose is to keep themselves so busy, so entrenched in their active lives, that their spirit reaches a permanent state of lethargiosis. In other words, their hyperactivity is no different from yours or my slothfulness.

One can almost hear Jesus' words to Martha: you are anxious about many things, but there is only one.

This is a funny and cute book, and if you've ever felt victimized by the false promises of the self-improvers, or paid good money for their books, then it will give you some well-deserved permission to laugh about the whole thing.

The author, playwright Wendy Wasserstein, is recently deceased at the young age of 55. So let's pray for her too, and thank God for the wisdom and light-heartedness she bore into the world. God knows the world needs them both.

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