A: Is there a cure for laziness?
B: Well, yes, why?
A: I always feel lazy. When I give in to it, I feel lazy all the more. I even begin to feel tired of being lazy. It must be an illness or something.
B: And you want a cure for it?
A: Yes. You know one?
B: It’s actually a process. And you seem to have begun it.
A: Really? How?
B: By recognizing it. That is the first step in the process of overcoming laziness. Until you realize that you are lazy, you won’t start doing anything about it.
A: And then?
B: By looking for a cure. That is just what we are talking about. You may have recognized that you are lazy, but unless you are willing to overcome it, you will just stay at the level of desire. Your willingness is manifested in your effort to look for a cure.
A: Okay. I did not realize that. I just thought it’s not doing me any good.
A: I feel heavy. I begin to loathe anything that requires effort. Then, I find myself just surfing the Net and playing video games the whole day.
B: In your bedroom?
A: Yes. Is there anything wrong with that?
B: We are now talking about three things: surfing the Net, playing video games, and doing both in your bedroom. Let’s start with the first one.
A: Surfing the internet?
B: Yes. While there is nothing wrong with the internet itself, you can use it wrongly or for wrong reasons.
B: When it becomes a channel for wasting time. It is meant to provide you information very fast… well… depending on your internet connection. But the whole philosophy behind it is to make information accessible in an easy and speedy way. That is a good thing. But precisely because it can provide you with so much information at an instant, you may end up wasting your time. This happens when you use it without a purpose—when you surf the Net just because you do not have anything to do or just because you are lazy and surfing does not require much effort. Then you go from one website to another without realizing that you have been neglecting your other duties.
A: And for wrong reasons?
B: When you use it to access materials that may poison your mind like pornography and blogs that spread hatred, racism and the like. I heard that even terrorists use it to spread their messages and activities to their counterparts in the different parts of the world—speedily, at that. It’s also wrong when you use it to upload materials that are meant for private use or to embarrass another person.
A: I do not use the internet for those things. I just play a lot of games with it.
B: Okay. For how long?
A: The whole day. Well, sometimes, up to the wee hours of the night because one of my friends is in the U.S…
B: Is it because you have to play with him when he is awake?
A: Yes. But sometimes, he is the one who has to stay up late.
B: What do you get from playing video games?
A: Bonding! I get to stay close to my friends. You see, one of them is hundreds of miles away.
B: But can’t you ‘bond’ in another way? You think you really get to ‘bond’ when you do not even have a chance to talk because you are busy playing and trying to outdo each other?
A: I guess so, but that’s what we have gotten used to. Are you against it?
B: Not completely, especially because you are still in high school. I guess you have to outgrow that when you go to college. Otherwise, you might end up like professionals who could not get out of it.
B: Oh yes, it happens. I even heard of a well-known politician who still stay up late at night playing video games, instead of thinking of his family and the people under his care.
A: How is that possible?
B: You may not understand it now because you are still young and you rightly think that these games are kid stuff. But it is also possible for someone to become what my English teacher used to say: an overgrown baby.
A: That’s ridiculous.
B: It’s quite funny, I guess. But it can also happen to you if you do not learn how to practice temperance. Many people describe it as self-control. I prefer calling it self-mastery—or better, self-integration.
A: That’s heavy stuff.
B: Not really. Self-integration means being able to use your powers of intellect and free will, together with your senses, in a harmonious and unified—integral—way. Many of the people we admire have this quality. They are not driven by impulses. They are also the ones whose advice we trust more because we know that they are not moved by mere feelings and passing fads.
A: How is that related to video games?
B: If you do not wean yourself out of these games as you grow older, they could become an addiction. At a certain point, you have to make a firm decision and say, “No more.” Look for other ways of relaxing and ‘bonding’ with your friends like playing sports and improving your culture. Unless you do that, you end up going back to video games because, as what you said earlier, they require less effort. And you may end up going back to the vicious cycle of laziness once again. That’s a counterpoint of temperance. Besides, some of these games are designed to keep you playing and as you grow older, they may even offer you games that are suitable for ‘older’ people. I do not buy that but I won’t be surprised that others would, especially those who have not stopped playing.
B: Because your body always looks for what it has been doing. We are creatures of habit. So if you do not want to get hooked to a lifestyle of playing video games—which may happen at the expense of your family obligations and other responsibilities, especially as you grow up—then, you have to make a decision once and for all to stop and look for other ways to have fun. That applies not just to video games but to all the other things with which you spend your time. Always ask yourself whether the thing you are doing will be for your good or not, because it will contribute to the way you live your life—your ‘lifestyle’.
A: One of my teachers told us about a ‘lifestyle of sin’. Is that what you mean?
B: If the habits you develop are the bad ones, then yes, you can develop a lifestyle of sin. What makes that lifestyle insidious is that you may not realize its development in your life. The actions you do build up your habits—your virtues, for the good acts, and your vices, for the bad ones. These habits forge your character, and spell out your lifestyle.
A: You mean I have to be conscious of what I do?
B: You have to make a decision to live a life of virtue so that you develop a good character, and consequently live a good life. And you do not have to be ‘conscious’ about it all the time because it will come out naturally. Being good becomes second nature to you.
A: That sounds easy…
B: It may be easier said than done. You have to struggle everyday to keep yourself away from vices and always go for what will build your virtues. If you do that day in and day out, it becomes your way of life. That is why in a certain sense we can say that it is not really difficult to be good.
A: And to be bad?
B: You got it. It all depends on the decisions you make everyday. Don’t even dream of the day that you will become so good and virtuous that you lose sight of the present. Just try to be good today. And tomorrow. And the next day. As I always tell my friends, “Just struggle to be faithful each day and you will never wake up unfaithful one day.”
A: Does that apply to overcoming laziness?
B: Almost. Just struggle fighting laziness every day, or to put it more positively, always keep yourself busy every day—following a schedule, for example—and at one point, you begin to get it, it becomes part of your ‘system’, it becomes your lifestyle.
A: How do I start making a schedule then?
B: Get or make a schedule sheet which shows the days of the week as columns and on the rows, the time of the day, usually from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. Fill it up with the ‘immovables’ which include your class schedules, weekly appointments and times for prayer. Then fill in your other activities that are ‘adjustable’ like your study period, time for exercise/playing sports, other acts of piety, and the like. You may ‘color code’ them according to importance. You will be surprised to see how much free time you have.
A: That’s where I can play video games?
B: Since you are still in high school, yes. But you have to try weaning yourself out of it little by little. Besides, make sure that you finish your homework and schoolwork first before you play. Make it a reward for having finished studying.
A: What if I do not get to finish studying and it is already time to go to bed?
B: Then play the next day. Again, after finishing your duties first. That’s how you train yourself in self-mastery. First, your duties like your assignments and time for prayer. Later, if you still have time, the non-essentials like playing video games. That’s good training in self-mastery—self-integration—as we talked about earlier.
A: How much time do I have to put for sleeping?
B: I always recommend seven and a half to eight hours. I remember saying that one day to my students and they did not want to believe that it was possible. In fact, a medical doctor said in a conference for students that he would get that amount of sleep even when he was in med school and they thought he was joking. He was serious. That is why I was very glad to see a YouTube video of a lady advocating getting enough sleep and at one point in her speech, she mentioned 7 ½ – 8 hours daily.
A: But you think I could finish all that I have to do when I sleep that much?
B: You will be able to work more efficiently because your mind and body are well rested. They are re-charged for a whole day’s work. You do not even have to take siestas during the day. Otherwise, you may fall into a vicious cycle.
A: What is that?
B: I usually observe this among students. Those who develop the habit of studying and doing their projects late at night instead of doing them during the day end up sleepy in class. Instead of pouring in all their attention during class, they end up dozing off. That means having to spend more time studying on their own the lesson that was taken up in class. If you are awake and alert in class, you could even ask questions to your teacher. You are already studying in class!
A: That means I do not have to study on my own?
B: You still have to but it will just be a review of what you already have learned thoroughly in class with your active participation. Or it becomes a matter of going deeper on the lesson, making extra readings or solving additional problems, say in math. It also means that you do not have to stay late to study. And you have more time to do your assignments and school projects and other things.
A: How about you? You still keep a daily schedule?
B: Yes. But not as I used to do when I was a student. I was lucky to have a study center in college where I was taught—and coached—how to make a schedule. I still remember revising the schedule every semester and summer depending on my classes. Eventually, the backbone of my day—what time I wake up, eat and sleep, acts of piety, work, exercise—had become part of my life, and I just have to insert the changes: meetings, appointments, events, etc. But wait, we still have to talk about the third topic.
A: Which one is that again?
B: We already spoke about using the internet and playing video games. And I asked you if you do these in your bedroom and you said yes.
A: Oh well. I remember now. What’s wrong in doing them in my bedroom?
B: I am more concerned with the internet access, including having a television, in your bedroom.
B: My opinion is that it would be better to have these in a public place in your house. As you may have surmised in our talk earlier, one cannot praise the internet without advocating caution. While it is true that it brings us so much information and get us in touch with our friends at an instant, it also brings a lot of trash like pornography, violence and the promotion of aberrant lifestyles.
A: But I do not access those things.
B: Of course you don’t. But it would be good to have a healthy ‘self-doubt’ in this. One way of assuring that is to access the internet and use the television only in a public place in your house—not in the comfort of your bedroom. It is like a reminder for you to avoid these bad sites and TV shows. You may also regard it as ‘encouragement’ to immediately click away pop-ups that suggest these negative media content. Having these in a common area in your house would help a lot. Yes, even if you can access them right there in your mobile phone.
A: But my parents do not actually mind it. They were the ones who insisted that I keep a television in my room.
B: It could be because they do not know much about what is going on. I read an article sent to me by one of my e-groups about the ‘unwanted visitor’ in the house.
A: What is that? We never have unwanted visitors at home. My parents are very strict on the people who come…
B: That is the point that I am precisely trying to drive at. While your parents are very strict on the people you bring to the house—making a background check on them perhaps—they do not realize that there are ‘unwanted visitors’ who freely come in and out of your house through the internet and TV. They may be very strict on screening out people who look weird, dress up indecently and those who they think may influence you negatively. However, all those things can come in easily through the internet.
A: I do not think they know about that. They are not quite into it. They are very busy with work.
B: That may also be another reason why they insist that you have TV and internet access in your bedroom. It may be one way for them to keep you at home since they are quite busy at work. But then again, they do not realize what influences are accessible in these media right there in your bedroom.
A: I guess I have to explain it to them?
B: Please do, and try your best to convince them about it. And if they insist, you do not have to use the TV and internet in the bedroom when you are alone.
A: Okay. I will do my best to explain to them that I prefer to use the TV and internet in our common area instead. Oh, by the way, isn’t all this talk about schedule tiring?
B: Well, yes. That question reminded me of an anecdote about Blessed John Paul the Great. One night, he was seen dragging his feet on the way to meet a visitor. The latter commented that the good Pope must have been so tired. The Pope retorted, “If the Pope is not tired at this time of the day, he must be wasting his time.” Besides, whatever you do in this world will get you tired somehow someday. And so you have to decide where you want to be tired at…
A: Okay, I got the point!