<%@ Language=VBScript %> Keepgoing.org - 1st Anniversary Issue: WORK - How I Relaxed and Learned to Love Slack...
The fARM

How I Relaxed and Learned to Love Slack:
A Public Service Message from Reverend Johnny Do-Nothing

As told to Blythe Smith

WorkWork can be a drag.

I mean, you have to go. Every day, you have to go.

Only you don’t, really, and that’s the tricky part. Once you realize that—that in reality, you don’t have to do anything—that’s when you’re in trouble. That’s when the shit hits the fan. For some people (some people like me and, hopefully, you), having choices is not a good thing. Or is it?

I realize that you busy little worker bees all humming quietly toward inevitable brain death don't know what I'm talking about, and that's OK. To be honest, I don't have any interest in trying to explain it to you. The whole idea is foreign to you, and the fact that you can't see the freedom (or the danger) right beyond your fingertips doesn't elicit an ounce of pity from me. Some of you just don't need a compelling reason (or any reason, for that matter) to do the dumb things you gotta do. Touching the puppet head* is just second nature to stupid motherfuckers like you.

No, this public service message is for the rest of you. The potheads, the potential slackers, those attracted to the teachings of J.R. Bob Dobbs, the would-be do-nothings and lay-abouts. Not to mention the rudies, the punks, the hipsters, the couch potatoes, the hippies, the rainbows and deadheads, the beatniks, the flower children, and everybody else who just doesn't feel like doing much. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you. Don't try to deny it—if you were a normal, you'd already have stopped reading this piece of crap.

If you don't get your oil changed until weird noises and smells start coming out of your engine, I'm talking to you. For christ's sake, they even give you those little stickers telling you when to do it, which is more than I can say for the rest of the world. How often do people give you little stickers reminding you about your responsibilities and when they have to be taken care of? Does the cat give you a sticker to let you know when to refill its dish? Does your mom give you a sticker to remind you of her birthday? (Don't you wish she would?)

But you rationalize that they're just trying to con you into changing your oil more often than you really need to. ("Fuckin' Jiffy Lube.") Or maybe you're beyond rationalization, like me. Maybe you know you should have done it, should have done it months ago, if not when you passed the next date than at least when you hit the mileage. But the car is still going forward (despite the odd noises and smells), confirming your suspicion that it wasn't so urgent after all. Nothing terrible has happened; you can still drive your car, so obviously you don't have to change your oil.

Little DobbsieAnd what about your teeth? Be honest here. I mean, shit, nobody can see your thoughts while you're reading this. Do you really brush your teeth every night? OK, those of you with partners at home will probably say yes and I can totally get down with that; the bootie is definitely a legitimate motivating factor for just about everyone. But let's say you're not attached, let's say you're single and you have been for quite some time and frankly you're not sure if you even remember how to work the bootie, and so honestly, is brushing your teeth before you go to bed really such a huge priority? Who will know if you don't? And that bad taste in your mouth won't be any worse if you don't do it, you know that 'cause even when you do brush your teeth you wake up with a taste in your mouth like Jabba the Hut took a shit in there.

For some of you this may be only when you're drunk or stoned or particularly tired. But deep down you know how those conditions can migrate into a general just-don't-feel-like-it attitude until pretty soon you simply don't brush your teeth before you go to bed at night. And does anything terrible happen? No. I mean, you may have some problems in there, but then again so do uptight folks who brush after every meal and even floss. (And jesus christ, don't even get me started on floss. I'm somehow going to be motivated enough to rub a little piece of string back and forth between each and every one of my teeth? Please.)

Which leads us of course to the dentist, the doctor, and other things of that nature. Take the whole yearly physical thing. Is the medical establishment doing this to oppress you? Um, no, folks, this is all for your own benefit, just the things you're supposed to do to take care of your own physical well-being. But it's just too much for you to deal with, isn't it? I mean, you just can't be bothered to pick up the phone and make an appointment and spend an hour or two at the doctor's office for that ONE WHOLE DAY OUT OF THE YEAR! Yeah, you let it go and let it go, and you have that weird bump on your hip that might be a pimple or might be a mole or might be cancer just waiting to metastasize all over your body, and you should probably have it looked at but instead you don't and just ask your friends, "Hey, man, do you think I ought to get this thing looked at?" Like they know. You're the one, after all, who sold them that killer Panamanian kind, so you could have the creature from the black lagoon growing out between your ass cheeks and they would probably think that was cool and certainly nothing to worry about.

Sea HippiesThere are those of us who have been like this from day one. We're the kids who threw the carrot sticks and milk out of our lunch boxes as soon as we were out of sight of the house. The ones who screwed up their braces eating Laffy Taffy and Now 'n' Laters and didn't give a flying fuck about how much all that orthodontia was costing Mom and Dad. The ones who, later on, learned how to sneak out of pep rallies and homeroom to smoke cigarettes and get high. The ones who, if we had the energy to attend college, squeaked by with the bare minimum for all of our five-plus years and made an art form out of copying other people's notes. In your office, we are the people who always seem to be making fresh coffee.

Although not all of us who worship at the alter of slack are stoners; believe me, there are some frighteningly intelligent, clean-cut people out there who have way more than their fair share of slack—precisely because they are so smart. They figured out at a very young age just how little they need to do to get by. If you find one of these people, attach yourself to them and pay attention. They're going to be rich someday, and maybe you'll be able to marry into it. If not, hopefully you'll at least have seen enough to write a tell-all book.

Then there are the folks who for some reason swing their pendulum all the way to the other side. These are people who got awards for good attendance at school. People who used to feel guilty when they stayed home from work, even though they never did it unless they were so sick that their mere presence in a room made other people want to run away, given the sheer volume of germs leaping off their bodies in all directions. And then one day they just snap, just lose it and all of a sudden stop doing everything. This sort of rapid change is usually accompanied by manic giggling and sometimes, at its end stages, the use of firearms. I'm not even sure these people truly have slack; once they make the change, they seem to be as uptight about not doing anything as they once were about doing everything. My advice is to avoid them and do not, under any circumstances, make eye contact.

And then there are the people like me. Yes, I used to be (and I shudder to think of it now) normal. I'm one of those people who used to do the dumb things we all (supposedly) gotta do. Until, one day, I just stopped.

We Can't Get Fired!I'd like to tell you I had some great excuse for slowly dropping out of everything I was supposed to do. I'd like to tell you a girl made me do it, or some great depression held me in bed, weeping, for weeks at a time, or that some debilitating neurosis filled me with the irrational fear that a giant rabbit was stalking me, making it extremely dangerous for me to leave my apartment unless I had a large bunch of carrots to wave in front of me as a talisman.

I'd like to be able to claim any of those symptoms as my own, but the plain truth is, it was slack that brought about my downfall. It was slack that got me where I am today, and brother, I can't even honestly say I regret it. Slack is a bitch goddess and you won't feel her fangs sink in until it's way too late to do anything but cry, "Hallelujah! I am reborn in slack!" There was no grand change for me, no crossing of some imaginary border. I just gradually began to realize that not only did I not want to do many of the things I did on a daily basis, but that I didn't have to.

I began to skip work more often, gradually at first, going from taking one or two mental-health days a year to slipping out at least once a week, sometimes not returning after lunch until 3:30 in the afternoon. This wasn't so much a conscious decision on my part, just a slow drift toward the only thing that really matters—more slack. There were other things I just wanted to do more, and for the first time in my life I decided to do them.

I gradually began to revise my standards of cleanliness, both in my personal affects and in my immediate surroundings. If you can't smell a shirt from more than five feet away, is it really dirty? If you still have a fork that you can at least eat with, do you actually have to wash the dishes? Commercials for dusting products began to send me into hysterics.

The consequences of this slow drift were what you'd expect. Eventually, I lost my job, which wasn't as bad as you'd think it was. Since I was fired (instead of quitting) I was able to collect unemployment. Finally, something that made sense to me—money for nothing. (Now all I had to do was find those chicks for free.) When things got too tight to maintain a place of my own, I started crashing on a friend's couch. I thought this would be humiliating, but was happy to discover that my newfound slack made it seem the ideal situation. I don't work, yet I eat and have a roof over my head. Who could ask for more?

If you are an enlightened individual such as myself, I know you are asking, "How can I, too, find slack?" And friends, slack can be yours, although not as easily as you might think. My own effortless slide into do-nothingism required a lazy frame of mind and Zen-like readiness to do absolutely nothing that is simply not present in your average American individual of this day and age.

"But Reverend Johnny!" you cry, "we too want to experience the boundless rewards of slack! How can we possibly achieve the sheer lack of will that got you where you are today?" My answer: fear not, gentle reader. Johnny has heard your plea and is willing to rouse himself to heed your cry. There's no real reason why you have to get up every day and start crossing things of your to-do list. In fact, there's only one single thing you have to do today: write to me now to receive my remarkable "10 Steps to Slackful Living." That's right, friends and neighbors, you too can follow the effortless downward path I took to complete freedom from work and responsibility. All you have to do is send $10 now to Post Office Box 305, Chicago, Illinois 60605, and all the secrets of a life of leisure will be yours for the taking.

So it's up to you now. Are you a man, or a mouse? A drone, or a free spirit? The rest of your life is in your hands, and $10 is all it will take to start you down the path. The choice is yours.

Thanks for your time.

*Thanks to They Might Be Giants for the very apt turn of phrase. John and John, I love you and own most of your CDs, so please don't sue me.

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Copyright©2001 As told to Blythe Smith.

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