“I would never die for my beliefs because I could be wrong.” ~Bernard Russell
What is the great lassitude? It is an all-encompassing, unhealthy comfort that never allows for healthy discomfort. It is insecure security that keep you stuck in a rut. It’s a lazy contentment that prevents growth. It’s an excuse to do nothing when something clearly needs to be done. And the only way to break its spell is to get uncomfortable, to breach security, to live dangerously.
The great lassitude is a mass hitting of the snooze button, a blatant un-awakening, a glaring symptom of a societal sickness that grips the world in a lazy haze of apathy that it can’t seem to think through. Protected by the armor of cognitive dissonance, the great lassitude keeps the general population unaware, to the extent that it doesn’t even know that it’s unaware.
From this lack of awareness comes a deep complacency mired in blissful ignorance. The great lassitude prays on bliss, keeps it close, like a security blanket or a sucked-on thumb. It’s all about the easy way out. It’s all about maintaining the rigid structure of the comfort zone. And God forbid anyone should be challenged or forced to grow.
Here are four ways that the great lassitude tricks us into falling into the trap of complacency and contentment.
1.) Nothing more to question:
“The business of philosophy is to teach man to live in uncertainty. Not to reassure him, but to upset him.” ~Lev Shestov
When the great lassitude seizes you, it tricks you into thinking that you’re smarter than you are, that you know things, that you’ve got it figured out. It comes on strong, like faith. There’s no need to question what you imagine you’ve got figured out because you believe that you’ve already got it figured out. You have faith in your belief. You have faith in the cultural conditioning of the status quo that raised you to believe a certain way about how things work. There’s no need to question it. It obviously works because everybody else also believes it. Right?
Wrong! There are at least three logical fallacies in that kind of thinking (illusory superiority bias, appeal to popularity fallacy, and appeal to authority fallacy). When you’ve gotten to the point that you’ve convinced yourself that the indoctrination you’ve received—whatever flavor of indoctrination that may have been—doesn’t need to be questioned, then you know that you’ve become a victim of the great lassitude.
So what can you do to avoid being a victim of the great lassitude and instead become a creator of the great becoming? First, you must admit that something needs to be done. Then all you can do is take a leap of courage (not a leap of faith) and begin to question everything you’ve been taught, conditioned, brainwashed, and indoctrinated into believing.
If you don’t question things, then you are bound to become stuck. That which you do not question inevitably becomes a trap. Both psychologically and spiritually. As Descartes said, “If you would be a real seeker of truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”
Stop being a victim of the great lassitude. Become a seeker of truth and discover the great becoming. It begins with questioning all things. Use curiosity to fuel your imagination. Wield the question-mark like a scythe and cut through the chaff of your conditioning.
2.) Nothing more to evaluate:
“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~Ken Kesey
Those suffering from the great lassitude tend to be those who place all their eggs into a single basket and then clutch it for dear life. They learn their values from one or two books, and then don’t read for the purpose of learning for fear that what they learn will contradict the values they’ve already learned.
Their faith is subconsciously based on laziness and fear. They are too lazy to evaluate what they’ve learned, let alone learn anything new. They double-down on this laziness (willful ignorance) and convince themselves that there is nothing more to understand about truth.
This can also afflict those who think they’ve learned all there is to learn, either about a particular subject or in general. They convince themselves that they’ve hit a wall, or that it’s “impossible”, or that it’s “just the way things are”. They’ve given up. They’ve tossed a monkey wrench into the process that was helping them stretch their comfort zone.
When you’ve gotten to the point that you think there is nothing more to learn or that you shouldn’t learn anymore because some dogmatic authority says it will warp your faith, then you know that you have been a victim of the great lassitude.
The only cure is to breach security by embracing curiosity. Take a leap of courage out of the comfort zone that you are clutching onto for dear life.
3.) Nothing more to create:
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious—the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science.” ~Albert Einstein
“There’s nothing new under the sun” is a lie. Imagination is inexhaustible. Smash one old idea into another old idea and then carve in your own unique creative signature, and you’ve got something new under the sun. Easy… Okay, maybe not easy, but plausible.
The new idea you create may not change the world—hell! It may not even get a “like” on Facebook, but it’s still new, and it’s still a product of your own curiosity and imagination.
The problem is that people lose their sense of wonder. They squander awe. They forget how to be playfully curious, which tends to cripple their creativity. This is an all-too-common symptom of the great lassitude. Fear and laziness lead to unimaginative killjoys who take themselves, and what they think they know, too seriously.
There will always be something more to create. Not even the trap of complacency and contentment can prevent creativity, for you could always create a way out of the trap. Of course, it would require being neither complacent nor content. And it may even require—God forbid—a sense of playfulness.
4.) Nothing more to laugh at:
“To choose the course of honesty is to risk the sacrifice of popularity; to choose adventure is to jeopardize security.” ~Guy Claxton
The worst part of the great lassitude is neither complacency nor contentment; it’s neither fear nor laziness. It’s seriousness. More specifically, it’s taking oneself or one’s worldview too seriously. If you are unable to laugh at your own fallibility, imperfections, and hypocrisy, then you are probably a victim of the great lassitude. Playfulness is in order.
Without playfulness, without a good sense of humor, self-seriousness becomes a rigidness that warps the soul into unhealthy nihilism and intolerant apathy. Spiritual flexibility is lost. Close-mindedness takes the wheel and leads to dogmatism and one-right-way thinking. Which just reinforces the false notion that there is nothing more to question, to evaluate, or to create. When the great lassitude seizes the soul, the individual is unable to seize the day.
In order to seize the day, you must seize the moment. And nothing seizes the moment like laughter—laughter at your own seriousness, laughter at your own ignorance, laughter at your own fallibility, laughter at the cosmic joke itself. If the great lassitude is a disease, then laughter is the medicine.
A sense of playfulness upsets the comfortable rigidness of the great lassitude. It catalyzes. It upends the apple-cart. It helps us realize that it's all laughable. And before you know it, with a light heart, you’re questioning all things. You’re evaluating and reevaluating what you think you know. You’re creating new ideas, theories, technologies, and art through your deep curiosity. Your tiny world opens up into a world of infinite possibilities. And then the great lassitude dissolves away to be replaced by the great becoming: self-actualization.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (The Great Lassitude: Four Ways That Contentment is a Trap) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.