The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The case for selective slackerism

By Sheon Han

10 Jun 2023 · 3 min read

informed Summary

  1. In South Korea, there are two words that can roughly translate as "laziness": geeureum and gwichaneum.

To the people who know me best, I am a bizarre mix of discipline and ineffectuality. I rearrange my fridge daily with the efficiency of a professional Tetris player, but I once vanquished a snake plant after forgetting its monthly hydration needs. Waking up before sunrise poses no challenge for me, yet I lack the patience to cook anything that takes more than seven minutes. Recently, I completed a 16-mile run but scraped my knee in the process, didn’t bother to disinfect the wound, and found a healthy colony of bacteria on my leg the next day.

In many cultures and across many time periods, my minor triumphs would be seen as virtuous, and my habitual idleness might be considered a moral failure. Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins. Napoleonic France, the late Ottoman empire, and the contemporary United States have all generally stigmatized laziness and praised industriousness. The notion that a person can embody both of those characteristics might feel incongruous.

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