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Sloth:Ode to Disarray and Delay


Up with Sloth

Most Americans are sloth-impaired. We’re increasing the number of hours we work, while the rest of the industrialized world is cutting back. At last count, we were working two weeks more each year than our closest competitors, the Japanese.

What’s more, Americans don’t rest a lot even when they’re not on the job. Remember when people used to take time off to relax? These days, no posh resort or five-star cruise ship hopes to snare vacationers without a well-equipped gym. The more you wish to spend, the more arduous your possibilities. Try tennis camp! Cycle your way through the Alps! Fly to the middle of Africa, then take a five-day hike! Or perhaps you’d prefer to drift in a barge along the Seine—while running on a treadmill.

All this labor isn’t smart. Nature provides limitless examples of the necessity for taking a break. Join us in observing sloth in its infinite variety and charm. And be mindful of its power. While sloth may appear lazy, it generally gets the upper hand.

Nature’s Imperatives

Sloth is natural. Sloth is good. Idle hands are at one with the cosmos. Don’t believe it? Then check out Chaos Theory, the most up-to-date explanation for the origin and development of the universe. The idea is that order may come from disorder without interference. Planning is not nature’s way. Mankind has long intuited this. No artist has ever depicted Mother Nature with an organizational chart.

Random is good. Supine may be perfect. In The Beauty of the Beastly, a collection of essays, science writer Natalie Angier makes a strong case for letting sleeping dogs (and humans) lie. Her compelling point is that laziness is "perfectly natural, perfectly sensible, and is shared by nearly every other species on the planet." Most animals, she says, unabashedly spend most of their time in activities that require no effort: sleeping, resting, digesting, staring at the clouds or doing nothing at all.

Human beings are the sole exception. We spend most of our time going to work, at work, or coming home from work. We fill a lot of the remaining time with some sort of task. In this respect, as Angier points out, humans behave in a way that is contrary to nature’s design.

It makes very good sense for animals to spent a lot of time just lying about home base. After all, the minute they leave their shelter, they risk becoming prey. And the further from home they stray, the greater the risk becomes; moreover, leaving youngsters unattended makes them vulnerable to attack. Plus home is warm and dry (unless you’re a fish). And the less you move, the more energy you conserve.

In sum, there are only three really compelling reasons for animals to leave the nest: food, elimination and sex. Humans, on the other hand, can be coaxed out to go white water rafting, attend a Rolling Stones concert, or shop at a flea market.

Our sense that our existence is finite may be what drives us to max out on every opportunity to do something. Only teenagers seem to obey the laws of nature by spending as much time as possible asleep. Instead of criticizing and fault-finding when they loll in bed, maybe we should just leave them be, comforted with the notion that at least there’s one thing they do right.

When moving slowly is a smart move

What you see depends on your point of view. Tiny organisms viewed through a microscope seem to be rushing about. But of course, they are covering a very small distance. These little animals are moving only slightly faster than zero miles per hour.

Generally, the larger the animal, the speedier. Even within a species, an adult can run faster than a child. But there is an exception to the rule: an animal of mid-to-large size that is particularly noted--and some might say maligned--for his lack of speed. The animal, of course, is the sloth.

When we call a slow-moving, lazy person a sloth, we are doing a disservice to the tree-dwelling mammal. The sloth does move slowly, to be sure, but not because he is lazy. The sloth’s prime enemy is the eagle. Like most predators, eagles have very keen eyesight that helps them to detect the slightest of movements. However, when the sloth slowly picks his way through the trees, an eagle has a hard time detecting his presence. What we see as slothfulness is the very thing that keeps a sloth alive.

Sloth Style

Official Sloth Drink
Sloe Gin Fizz

Official Sloth Footwear
Buy them a little too large, position them correctly, and you may be able to get them on and off without changing your pace or altering your position.

Official Sloth Uniform
Leisure suit and lounging pajamas

Official Sloth Furniture
Recliner chair and recliner sofa

Official Sloth Kitchen Accessory
Slow cooker and lazy susan

Official Sloth Recreational Favorite
Slow dancing

Official Sloth Traffic Signal
Go Slow

Official Sloth Baseball Maneuver
Slow pitch

Official Sloth Medication Delivery System
Slow-release capsule

Official Sloth Emotion
Slow burn