Quitting the Paint Factory, an essay by Mark Slouka, brilliantly articulates much of what I feel about the whole work/ambition thing, and notes the perceived distinction between idleness and leisure:
Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn’t. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure – particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology – is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue. Idleness, on the other hand, has a bad attitude. It doesn’t shave; it’s not a member of the team; it doesn’t play well with others.
It’s a fairly long article, but well worth reading. Toward the end it veers into the political and draws a connection between the stated ideals of the Italian Futurists and the personal style of G.W. Bush.
“We will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers….. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind….. We will sing of great crowds excited by work.”
- Filippo Marinetti
See also: In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell, 1932