Slack is extra—extra line in the rope. Slack is not keeping things tight. It means not pulling, or at least not pulling so much that you use up all the slack.
In animal training, slack is a reward. When a horse does what you want, you give it slack in the reins. You release the pressure, and that release is pleasure enough. This suggests that slack itself, having a bit of extra in your rope, is something to value.
If slack is extra, it is linked to waste. Bataille suggested that what we do with our waste, our “extra,” is what defines us. And he reminds us of the (problematic) relationship between excess, waste, and sacrifice.1
The kind of slack we’re talking most about here is the slack that means wasted time. And wasted time means time not given to the future. Time not put to use. To waste time is to be present. To simply be present is to waste time. If enough time is wasted in this way, (as Prayas Abhinav said) you are a buddha.2
At work, to slack is to strike. It is an act of refusal—the refusal to be used. Here I think you can find some of its political sting. Slacking is a kind of sabotage, like those dutch workers throwing their wooden shoes into the machines that enslaved them – wreckage as resistance. Slacking subtly wrecks the productive machine of work life, it slows it down, gums it up.
I met a poet in Prague once. He told me that before the revolution, writers and philosophers tried to get work tending the boilers in big buildings. They could sit in the basement, quietly reading and writing subversive tracts, shoveling coal from time to time as necessary. They sought out the work with the most slack, and with that slack they made their revolution……