ENGAGING THE IDLE MIND
For as long as I can remember I have believed the phrase set out below is one that has existed in this exact form, and been regularly quoted and utilised in multiple media, since time immemorial:
The idle mind is a playground for the devil.
Only when I search that phrase on the world wide web I can’t seem to find any source for it. There are plenty of people out there using the phrase, or something very similar to it, and/or explaining what they think it means. There has even been a movie made with almost those same words as its title. But no-one really seems to know where the phrase originated.
Sure, there are mentions of Chaucer, and of other olde worlde texts. A recent version of the Bible even includes something similar in its Book of Proverbs. But none of these seem to be the definitive source. But I know, I just know, that I heard those words, exactly as they are written above, somewhere in my distant past.
To digress for a moment:
I grew up, generally happily so far as I recall, in a family in which games of all kinds played a central part of our daily life. Everything from organised competitive sport, to social tennis and golf, down to board games and card games, shared quizzes and holiday crosswords.
Was this just our parents’ way of creating what they hoped would be a fun-filled collaborative environment? Or were their motives more sinister? (The narrator turns directly to camera, and raises an eyebrow suggestively).
Because within a very short time after these kinds of wholesome family activities ceased to take place on a regular basis, I found myself getting into all sorts of nefarious mischief. Of course the fact that this period of my life corresponded with the disappearance of my three older siblings from the nest, and the appearance of hair on parts of my body where none had previously existed, is almost certainly no mere coincidence.
One of my growing interests during this formative phase, like many people that age I guess, was music. In particular I liked to wade through the black vinyl at my local record store, like a finicky new homeowner choosing carpet samples, looking for a hidden gem that none of my friends would have, or even know about. On one such occasion, circa 1977, I stumbled across an album cover that simply demanded my attention.
Looking back I feel more than a little transparent and embarrassed. And I’m sure you probably won’t believe me when I try and convince you that I really, genuinely did like the music on this record – especially the title track – and that the featured artist, Peter Brown, is an underrated genius!
However it was upon recently re-visiting this song that I realised this was the source I had been looking for. Because there in the chorus are the very words that have lived with me for forty years and more:
The idle mind is a playground for the devil
(Do you wanna get funky with me, do you wanna?)
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that if you want to avoid temptation and lasciviousness folks, puzzles are the way to go. So here, as time passes, you will find crosswords, brain teasers, and what I like to call Essential Trivia – comprising facts we didn’t know we knew, and some we didn’t know, but wished we did.
Then again, temptation and lasciviousness may be more your bag. If so, go for it. No judgment here. (Tight close-up on the narrator who, with perhaps just a trace of a smile, winks knowingly down the barrel. Fade to black).