Zen and the Art of Relaxation
Ah, it’s good to be home. My sibling is toiling away at high school and my classmates are trudging 15 miles uphill both ways through the less-than-tropical climate of winter in Cambridge. Meanwhile, I’m warming my toes in luxurious Virginia. Sure, it’s not sunny California or Hawaii, but it’s where the heart is, no doubt about it.
Alas, it is true that I’m missing out on a lot of fascinating classes and activities over the Independent Activities Period. I saw a listing for an event on medieval clothing that I would’ve liked to attend. I daresay I would look rather cunning in a cloak, if only because it hides my scrawny, semi-muscular frame. Still, being at home gives me a good chance to kick back for a while after my first semester, and I don’t need doctor’s orders to tell me when I’ve had too much excitement. I’ve been waiting to de-stress for a while, and I’m taking the opportunity while I have it.
The ancient and revered art of relaxation for relaxation’s sake (not to be confused with punting, relaxation for procrastination’s sake) dates back to the dawn of civilization, when free time became more readily available with the advent of agriculture. Before then, slackers generally either starved or were eaten, depending on the native wildlife. The ancient Mesopotamians took the art to an entirely new level through an ancestral form of what college students everywhere now know and love as beer. It has been speculated that the fall of the Roman Empire was caused by a combination of increasingly widespread alcohol consumption and the use of lead Solo cups.
Activating another waypoint in the journey to relaxing as we know it today, Marco Polo returned to medieval Europe in 1295 bearing silk, gold, bootlegged DVDs, and inexpensive manufactured goods. Subsequent European exposure to relaxation in its purest form, meditation, was a key event in the development of anti-stress techniques. Meditation’s cousin, power-napping, naturally forms the cornerstone of all sleep taken by the average college student throughout their academic careers. Unfortunately, despite Polo’s travels in the neighborhood, it wasn’t until much later that the lifeblood known as ramen made its way here from Japan. Japan itself is perhaps the greatest contributor to modern slacking of any country on the planet. Barring the electronics and auto industries, the anime and manga phenomenon, and sushi bars, I think the word “Nintendo” pretty much renders the case closed.
The next stop on our guided tour of the history of slacking is turn-of-the-20th-century America with narrative cinema. Watching grown men sneeze and locomotives steam was captivating when motion pictures were first born, but it wasn’t until movies had plot lines that college audiences began to pay attention to them. The strength of the plot lines, as often as not, was immaterial. Television would do much the same thing a few decades later, although the appearance of reality shows threatens to convert television-based slacking from a hobby into an addictive substance.
The final chapter in de-stressing, at least for a good long while, is the Internet. Between Wikipedia, YouTube, and Facebook, every moment from now until Doomsday could probably be accounted for without being remotely productive. Net-surfing, however, will probably only remain prominent so long as our generation’s eyesight holds out. C’est la vie.
Thus concludes a brief history of killing time. I emphasize “brief” because it has not escaped my attention that I’ve skipped virtually the entire history of the written word, simply because, if you’re reading this, you already know how to pick up objects made of paper and comprehend the symbols written on it.
Unless, of course, you’re reading this on the Tech Web site. In which case, feel free to look me up on Facebook.