153. On Clouds

I AM, AT HEART, a lazy man, never more content than when I am idle. I'm happiest lying back on the couch by the window, watching the clouds sail overhead, drifting in and out of sleep. I've always been this way, even as a child. My grandmother used to say to me, You should have been born a pasha, and she was right. I really was born at the wrong time, in the wrong place. I would have made a wonderful pasha. I would have been as melancholic and reserved and world-weary and vain as the very finest pashas. I would have frittered away most of my life. I would have been susceptible to the corruption of unscrupulous men and to the whims of capricious women. I would have devoted my life to poetry and the study of clouds. I would have observed the world crumbling around me and not lifted a finger to save it – knowing it to be a futile gesture. I would have resigned myself to accepting the tide of history, and been suspicious of any man who sought to turn it to his will. There really is no finer work of art than a cloud, no gallery more beautiful than a sky. I was born to watch clouds passing overhead, and am good at very little else. You see, I am not just lazy, I am hopelessly, incorrigibly lazy. Lazy be default. Lazy to the bone. Not just idle, but self-destructively idle. Exercise is abhorrent to me and I have no practical skills whatsoever. I have to call tradesmen in the newspaper just to hang a painting on a wall. I wouldn't say I am proud of my affliction, but then again I am not ashamed of it either. I used to be ashamed of it, ans my shame drove me to all kinds of futile attempts to work, to forge a career, to be a productive member of society. They all proved to be exercises in futility. I could never keep the charade going for very long. It is a long time since I gave up the pretense. I'm living on meagre savings, which will run out any day now. In the meantime, however, all I need to be happy is to lie back on a couch or a bed of grass somewhere and watch the clouds pass overhead. I'm lucky I live under a sky that is almost always decorated with a cloud or two. I once tried living in a place where the sky was always clear – I can’t remember why, I think I moved to give myself a sense of purpose, all to no avail of course – but eventually I had to concede defeat and return to this place, this city of clouds. People are always complaining about clouds. They yearn for a cloudless sky. But a sky without a cloud is empty, giving my eyes no purchase. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that people who yearn for a cloudless sky aren't interested in the sky at all. It might as well be invisible to them, which is ironic, I suppose. I know mine is an unfashionable predisposition. I have seen doctors and psychologists to cure it, but all to no avail. One of them suggested it may well be genetic, in which it is passed down on the paternal side. My father was also a very lazy man. I don’t hold it against him. On my mother’s side, it’s all grafters and accumulators, early-to-rise types, investors and exercisers. In their eyes, my attitude is an insult, not just to the family but to the whole of humanity. It’s because of them that it’s taken me so long to accept my fate. And I have paid a high price for it. I know I will be forever lazy, and thus forever poor. I don't mind - a short life of idleness is worth several lives of hard work. I like to think the pashas would have understood. I like to think they would have recognised me as one of their own. Together we might have taken tea together and smoked fine tobacco and compared notes on the inexhaustible subject of clouds.