Procrastination is the new Carpe Diem
By Eric Wagner

Friday, August 16, 2002

If you don't want to be a total loser, you must "seize the day," right? But, alack, you have been procrastinating. You haven't begun your new diet, an important project remains unfinished on your desk, and your lengthy toenails have turned into lethal weapons. You just know you're doomed never to complete anything, and, if you do, there will always be something else you should be doing instead.

But perhaps there is an alternative to our society's Protestant go-go-go, "sleep is for wusses" work ethic, a more relaxed, more intuitive one.

"Unfinished is a state of grace," mused Yoko Ono. Was she on to something? You decide.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, told me that every night he would put, next to his keys, a check he had written to purchase shares in the dot-com he worked for; however, he kept forgetting to bring the check with him when he left home. Forgetting this one thing continued for weeks. My friend, who was somewhat notorious for never forgetting anything, couldn't figure out why he kept "forgetting" the check. The only resolution, in his mind, was that purchasing the shares was a bad move. He was subsequently proven right. The suckers who did purchase the stock were out of luck, perhaps because they missed the blessing of procrastination.

Avoidance can be a virtue. There are numerous stories of people not getting on planes or trains, or walking down certain streets or into certain places and consequently missing disaster. Of course, there is probably an equal number of stories of people who did get on planes or trains and happened, serendipitously, to meet the loves of their lives, or walked into stores to buy winning lottery tickets. Nevertheless, the power of not doing something should never be underestimated.

In line with my friend's fortunate dilatory actions, I am certain that legions of people who purchased shares of Enron, WorldCom, Quest, et al, wish they had committed the sin of procrastination. (My own ill-fated purchase of Webvan stock could have used a bit more caveat emptor than carpe diem, alas.)

But this is yesterday's snow. What about the future? Behold my crystal ball.

Damn! I just dropped it on my foot! Big balls of crystalline glass can be dangerous. I should have left fortune-telling exactly where it always is: in the future.

I am not, however, above making some extrapolations. Here is a list of things to postpone, or just never get around to doing:

  • Reorganize closets or cabinets full of tchotchkes. (Donate them instead.)
  • Crack open the Martha Stewart cookbook. (Her books are already way overcooked.)
  • Fix a friend's or family member's computer. (Really, don't do this!)
  • Start on the novel you've always wanted to write. (It'll suck anyway, and, even if it doesn't, it's impossible to get published, so don't waste your time.)
  • Keep up with politics. (The news is always very, very bad.)
  • Talk to your parents. (Fulfilling family obligations never made anyone feel good.)
  • Join a gym. (Gym fees are a tax on the lazy.)
  • Look for work. (How does a vacation sound?)
  • Listen to me. (What do I know?)

Well, what are you waiting for? Carpe diem!

Copyright 2002 Eric Wagner All rights reserved.

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