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Study linking laziness to longevity must be written by teenage scientists


Wiley Rutledge, who never knew lazy, mowed all the way to the end of his row.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, September 1, 2018

According to a recent study, laziness might actually contribute to longevity. That should give my teenage children an excellent shot at immortality.

A University of Kansas research team looked through a 5-million-year window to analyze the metabolic rates of 299 species. They could have made it an even 300, but why break a sweat?

The researchers found that species shown to expend higher amounts of energy were more likely to be extinct than their still-reproducing relatives.

In the story I read, one of the scientists suggested that “survival of the sluggish” might be a good replacement for “survival of the fittest.”

It’s puzzling that a scientist could look at fossils of long-extinct organisms and tell how much energy they expended during life. Most likely the specimens’ bony fingers were not clutching fossilized cell phones, and that’s how the researchers could tell that these had been the more active creatures.

They could further distinguish the fossilized remains that still roam the Earth by the creatures’ petrified surroundings: messy rooms, dishwashers filled with clean dishes, and bathroom sinks coated with toothpaste residue and hair.

I should stop right here and admit that if laziness truly determined longevity, I might live forever, too. I can sit and stare out a window for as long as even the laziest of creatures. I work hard here and there only to keep myself on the air-conditioned side of the window.

A better study might be to analyze how it is that lazy teenagers so often evolve into productive members of society. I’m certain that one of my father’s greatest surprises was watching me do just that.

As far as I could tell, my dad had not one lazy bone in his body. He started working at the tender age of eight, soon after his own father died. He delivered newspapers, cleaned windows, unloaded trucks, and mowed lawns — and those were just the odd jobs he did before school.

I’m exaggerating his industriousness, of course. But only slightly. The paper route was the before-school job. The rest came after.

My girls are lucky that they don’t have their grandfather’s pre–child-labor-law stories to live up to.

“When I was your age,” he would say, “I was working four jobs all week and three on the weekend.”

From my earliest days of mowing our lawn, Dad encouraged me to mow other people’s grass for money, which I did. But to his dismay, my list of clients never expanded beyond one.

“You have gas-powered equipment that you didn’t even have to pay for,” Dad would lament. “How can you not see the opportunity in that?”

Eventually he would leave the house, and I’d go back to watching Gilligan’s Island.

The worst was when a kid in our church, who was a year younger than I was, started building the lawn-care business of my father’s dreams. The church was one of the boy’s clients, and I received weekly reports as the churchyard’s grass and the business kept growing.

That kid has probably sold his landscaping empire by now and sails by Gilligan’s Island on a private yacht.

My dad would have called this study linking laziness to longevity “a bunch of malarkey.” And he’d be right to use those words.

I only wish he’d lived long enough to see me getting paid to write them.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.