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Burning the Lazy

In the "Cult of Escapism": Burning the Lazy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Burning the Lazy

The cure for laziness feels just like a hot nail being pressed against your spine, repeatedly. It feels like that because that's exactly what it is.

According to custom, pregnant women can make you lethargic, and the only way to remove the lethargy is to burn it away. Lately, I'd been feeling that lethargy – less motivated to work, more likely to nap in the afternoon – and I mentioned this to one of my host moms.

“Well, have you been interacting regularly with any pregnant women?” She asked.

I thought about it and then we went over a list of currently pregnant women in my town. She mentioned Mariela and I realized she had to be the culprit – she attends my nearest store, which I go to almost every day. Plus she's really pregnant*.

So I approached Mariela with a simple enough request: “I want you to burn me.”

Turns out, “burning” should happen on Tuesday or Friday, at around 6am. I have no idea why. So on Friday, I rose before dawn and was standing in Mariela's kitchen at 6:15. She had a pot of coffee on and a length of metal wire sticking in the fire. Her dad, Fidel, one of the hardest working and wealthiest men in the town, was also there, excited to see the spectacle.

While waiting for sufficient heat, Fidel informed me that a worldwide famine was imminent and that it would be wise to plant on “every corner of land” that I had. I told him I don't own any land and he laughed at me. Puny, landless white boy. I told him it was a good thing that I was at least removing my laziness and he agreed. Apparently, I'll soon need to work for my food.

Minutes later, I was standing near the stove with my shirt off and my back to Mariela. “Here it comes” she said.

I've struggled to think of a more creative comparison for the feeling and the best I've come up with is repeated flaming wasp stings. Which is actually more abstract – it's probably far more likely for one to be burned by a nail than to be stung by a wasp with a flaming stinger. But anyway, to the best of your ability, imagine a burning nail poked up and down your spinal column and that's how it felt. Some pokes provoked more of a dull burning pain, while others felt more like tiny electric shocks.

If it sounds primitive and unnecessary, it is. But sometimes primitive motivations might work best. I chose to have this happen, but traditionally, it was more of a threat. Moms would tell their kids that they were being lazy and the kids knew full well what that meant. And beyond that, “burning” is labeled a cure, rather than a punishment (apparently it is also applied to aching joints), so it isn't really be classified as abusive.

Now that my back is dotted with red burns, hopefully I'm more motivated to work. If nothing else, I won't be napping this afternoon, because I can't lay on my back.

*Does more pregnantness make you more lethargic?


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