The Universe Wants You to Be Lazy: Meet the Laziest Man in the World

I was wasting some time on Reddit when I came across this wonderful story. It was labelled – world’s laziest man.

“I was once on a US military ship, having breakfast in the wardroom (officers lounge) when the Operations Officer (OPS) walks in. This guy was the definition of NOT a morning person; he’s basically a zombie with a bagel. My back is to the outboard side of the ship, and the morning sun is blazing in one of the portholes putting a big bright-ass circle of light right on his barely conscious face. He’s squinting and chewing and basically just remembering how to be alive for today. It’s painful to watch.

But then zombie-OPS stops chewing, slowly picks up the phone, and dials the bridge. In his well-known I’m-still-totally-asleep voice, he says “heeeey. It’s OPS. Could you… shift our barpat… yeah, one six five. Thanks.” And puts the phone down. And then he just sits there. Squinting. Waiting.

And then, ever so slowly, I realize that that big blazing spot of sun has begun to slide off the zombie’s face and onto the wall behind him. After a moment it clears his face and he blinks slowly a few times and the brilliant beauty of what I’ve just witnessed begins to overwhelm me. By ordering the bridge to adjust the ship’s back-and-forth patrol by about 15 degrees, he’s changed our course just enough to reposition the sun off of his face. He’s literally just redirected thousands of tons of steel and hundreds of people so that he could get the sun out of his eyes while he eats his bagel. I am in awe.

He slowly picks up his bagel and for a moment I’m terrified at the thought that his own genius may escape him, that he may never appreciate the epic brilliance of his laziness (since he’s not going to wake up for another hour). But between his next bites he pauses, looks at me, and gives me the faintest, sly grin, before returning to gnaw slowly on his zombie bagel.”

What is it that makes this story so damn amusing?

Whether true or not, there is a very “human” quality about it, something that makes us instantly relate to our own moments of extremely illogical laziness. I’m sure we can all think of a time when we have been too lazy to move. We aren’t alone in this, the “lazy” product is a thriving one – just think of clap on/off lights, 6 second abs and automatic banana peelers (yes, they exist).

world's laziest man

Laziness is not a solely American preoccupation as much of the world might have us believe. We are all lazy.

In fact, even the very universe itself is lazy.

Give Yourself This Test

Imagine yourself standing on a line three feet from a wall. Suppose that you were told you needed to touch the wall and return back to the line.  Without any mention or feeling of urgency, which part of the wall would you touch – the section directly in front of you or the section to the left or right?

All things being equal most of us would walk the fewest steps possible and touch the nearest point, simply because it’s the nearest and shortest path. This scenario begs the question – why do we automatically travel the shortest path even when time is not a consideration?

Apparently the molecular substructure of the universe also shares our infinity for the shortest and fastest path.  This idea is one of the universal principles of nature, as posited by numerous thinkers.

Light is also a big fan of taking unbelievably fast shortcuts.  In the 17th century, Pierre Fermat developed what was later known as Fermat’s Principle, a theory which stated that light travels at difference speeds in different media and always maintains the path that takes the least amount of time.

Critics of Fermat’s theory begged the question – how does light know which is the shortest path? The answer would indicate something built into the very universe itself; a predilection for being as efficient as possible.

Fermat’s principle was also echoed by findings of the noble pirate-turned-scientist, Pierre-Louis de Maurpertuis who expanded on the idea. Mr. Maurpertuis stated that in all events in nature, there is a certain quality called “action” which always exists at a minimal level. His ideas later gave rise to the notion of “least resistance”, which spiritual teachers have been using ever since.

What Does This Mean For Us?

It seems that the universe is conspiring against us, to keep us constantly traversing the path of least resistance and consequently – least rewards.

Even our brains function on a “least energy” principle. We are cognitive misers who enjoy using quick rules of judgment and assessment to make decisions in the world. In academic psychology, we call these cognitive biases and we are all guilty of them. These laziness rules of thumb, mean we don’t have to think too hard about the problems in front of us and we certainly don’t have to accept responsibility for the choices we make.

Every day we face that same hypothetical wall standing in front of us, just a few feet away. Every day is a decision to reach out and touch that nearest point or travel a little further and go somewhere else.

You are given a choice to indulge in your universal laziness or try something new – hard work.

Hard work is, well, hard. It involves embracing uncertainty and dancing with the fear that comes from leaving the path of least resistance.

However, there is some great news. It’s much easier to be brave and commit to hard work than it is to carry around a lifetime of laziness, regret and stagnation.

So why not try taking a couple of extra steps.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”  Lucius Annaeus Seneca