Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The pursuit of idleness
The dictionary defines Idleness as:
1. A lack of action or activity
2. The quality or state of being lazy
Now, just think: how long ago was it that you were really, truly and gloriously idle? I don’t mean the idle watching of a TV show, idle web-surfing, or even the idle people-watching while lying on the beach in a hammock on your last vacation. I mean the kind of idle which you see sometimes in children; the kind where a kid is lying on the couch fiddling aimlessly with a toy and when you ask him what he is doing, he truthfully says “Nothing”.
That’s it! I mean that state of doing absolutely nothing. Modern society has made a virtue of hard work, and in doing so, created a Satan out of idleness. Haven’t we all heard a thousand times about how an idle mind is the devil’s own workshop?
And yet, think about it, how many Eureka moments, how many inventions and discoveries and brilliant works of art, how many path-breaking companies, books and movies have come into being precisely because the mind was idle? When you consciously take a break from facebooking, googling, working, or even meditating; when you let the mind wander into pastures new and old, some interesting things happen. Not all of them desirable, mind you. You might start thinking of how your marriage stinks, or how your boss hates you, or how your kid seems to have speech delays, or that nagging pain in your left wrist. Equally possible, you may notice that cloud in the sky which is shaped exactly like a turtle, how your baby has a barely discernible but oh-so-adorable dimple on her right cheek, how each and every petal of that rose is shaped and coloured to perfection. And in doing so, you open your mind to the beauties of the universe.
Now, chances are, if you do this idleness gig long enough or often enough, you’ll get B.O.R.E.D. T.O. D.E.A.T.H.
Now, bear with me here. I argue that even this boredom is a good thing. Cast the silvery tentacles of your mind where they will go….allow yourself to think about that article you never got around to writing, that puzzle you promised your son you would construct together, that dream house you wanted to build, that business you wanted to start (just don’t start making a “To-do” list in your mind!). Who knows what you will end up visualizing or creating?
The scientists say – allow children to be bored. Boredom begets creativity. Why isn’t that applied to adults too?
I don’t argue for enforced idleness (what could be worse?). But I argue for a few moments in every day which are devoted to the pursuit of idleness. Shrug off technology and shut off the cacophony that accompanies our every moment. Breathe deeply, open your eyes and ears and just be. Who knows, the next big idea that will allow you to work just a couple of hours a day and retire when you are 50 may be just an idle brain-stop away!