Sunday, July 29, 2018

Not Yet

I just read Andrew Santella's book Soon: An Overdue History Of Procrastination.

Procrastination is an odd thing. (It's also sort of odd there's a word for it.  Do other languages have an equivalent?)  It's weird that we know we have to do something and we need to do it before too long, but somehow we just can't get started.

Why are some people like this (including me)?  I don't know.  Though, in my experience, once you get started, it's a lot easier to keep going.

One of Santella's historical examples is Darwin.  He sat on his theory of evolution for over twenty years before publishing.  Though Darwin, I'd say, had understandable reasons.

First, the idea of evolution was already in the air, and some people were making poor arguments on its behalf.  Darwin wanted to get it right. Being a methodical person, he did a lot of research--not necessarily to prove evolution, but to became a top naturalist. (And he did it all at home--once he got a place in the suburbs of London, he rarely left.)

But also, he was aware of the revolutionary impact of his theory, and he was not a revolutionary himself.  He had notoriously poor health--he suffered from headaches, exhaustion, anxiety, fainting, vomiting, cramps and bloating, among other problems.  The last thing he wanted was the upset of controversy.

Darwin may have waited even longer to publish if in 1858 he hadn't received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace sketching out the same theory as Darwin's.  So they published a paper together and, in 1859, Darwin published Origin Of Species (which was a shortened version of his full argument, he hastened to add).

So is this truly procrastination?  He was already a noted naturalist before he wrote about evolution, and, as a gentleman scientist, had no pressure to publish anything in particular.  Is procrastination waiting to do anything, or is there a requirement that it's something you're supposed to do?


Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter