The Joy of Doing Nothing….

It is a Sunday afternoon; we, as in, my sister and I have no plans of entertaining in the evening and all is quiet around the house. The lunch is all done and my sister in the very traditional a la Bengal meets Spain style is indulging in a luxurious siesta. I am pottering around the apartment aimlessly, sometimes in the sitting room or sometimes in my bed room. I am reading, making coffee and in between randomly surfing the internet. I feel bored but not really; the books I am currently reading – Humankind by Rutger Bergman and Which Way by Theodora Benson are wholly absorbing and thoughtful reads in their own way. Humankind makes me re-think and revisit some commonly held historical beliefs and Which Way, a brilliant piece of inventive fiction makes me both nostalgic as well as wonder about the many what ifs in life. I have plenty food for thought between the two reads, so boredom it is not. Yet I am at odds and ends; like I should be doing something or not whiling away this time; not meandering around. And then realization dawns, that because I am, we are, constantly attuned to completing a task, achieving something, this restless feeling, was/is actually an anxiety that this nothing to do will prove costly later. I and we as a species, have been guilted down from generation to generation that we must do something, constantly and incessantly to make life fruitful.

There is something to that argument; if as a species we would have not been active and accomplished things, we would have never invented fire or the wheel or vaccines to stop small pox or the internet. It is this very hyper productivity of mankind, that had led to it’s success and greatness. Where we stand today is the effort of hundreds and thousands of our ancestors who have strived and done their bit to bring in a better life for the progenies of the future. And now we reap the harvest of their hard work, so maybe it behooves us to do the same; in fact it obligates us to do the same; to work hard so that we can bequeath a better future to still unborn generations.

The Swing (La balançoire), 1876, oil on canvas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30518325

But when I think a little more closely, I wonder about this “progress”; true we have vaccines and the internet. But it all started so many 100,000 years ago by first invention of fire, then agriculture, wheel that stimulated trade and then as Yuval Noah Harari said, the greatest invention of all times, God. This naturally let to authority and then ours versus theirs and through centuries of wars and strives, into a seemingly modicum of peace and sanity that we have today, though not wholly and we have many newer problems to deal with as well. We may have created answers to solve older problems that we created ourselves and but new answers are creating new problems and we are constantly spiraling down a path of “progress”, without perhaps stopping to think what is this progress? What does it mean to me or my family? And personally at a microcosm level, is what I am doing really helping “progress” or am I like myself, just helping a rich company become richer and becoming caught up in a never ending cycle of chasing one goal after another and trying to fill the gaps with incessant consumption of things I do not need and does not make give me any long lasting happiness or comfort. If this be the case, then I am really not doing any good to the future generations; in fact I may be downright ruining their future with my consumerism which is killing the planet. Instead, would it not be better, if I appreciate quietly the joy of doing nothing one lazy Sunday afternoon. Yes, I may not achieve anything if I go on like this, but then what am I trying to achieve – some comfort and some happiness. A long race to millions in the bank does not guarantee either. Rather in the mad dash to achieve nothing, I may instead lose the present joy and this blessing, for blessing it is; how many can claim to have a dull Sunday afternoon?

This then is what I bequeath to the unborn of the future – the ability in the words of William Henry Davis, the time to stand and stare. To not be in a constant rush to do something and be some place; I absolve them from the guilt of all these expectations. I hope they have a fulfilling life, where they can go for a walk among green trees, have the ability to enjoy a cup of coffee under the blue sky lit by the orange haze of a rising sun and a lazy quiet Sunday afternoon, with absolutely nothing to do!

11 thoughts on “The Joy of Doing Nothing….

  1. one must live in the culture one is born to… regardless of the dominating social strictures. still, happiness, imo, is closely related to a balanced mind, achieved mainly by living in the present and trying to avoid fretting about the past or the future. man as a species doesn’t have a history of being patient, thoughtful, or nondestructive, and it’s not very likely that any particular individual will change either historical trends or future developments. we’re all caught up in a cultural/genetic flood that carries us along regardless, and in spite of our perceptions; perhaps the best we can do is to be a source of sanity for others… and to preserve a sense of humor about humanity’s failures and “successes”. (sorry to be pedantic: it just pops out, lol)

    1. I think being caught up in the cultural flood is a very valid point; but I also feel that someone is lost history must have started this trend, which has now grown exponentially. So similarly if one of us just choses to step back a little and then maybe another one, maybe in a few hundred years we would have stopped this trend. Atlleast that is my simplistic thought. I think preserving our sense of humor is the key to all peace and happiness. Not pedantic at all; I love debating and thinking things through with you! Remember virtual mentorship! 🙂

  2. I love this so much! I kept nodding my head and saying yes, yes, yes the whole time I was reading. I hope you enjoyed your wonderful afternoon of doing nothing! May there be many more ❤

    1. Thank You so much Stephanie! Your kind words and if I may approval means the world to me! I have always appreciated and respected your thoughtful sensitive thinking and to have your agreement is a new high!

  3. Yes, yes, it’s sooo true!

    We think all progress is good and completely fail to assess whether it actually is or not. We’re either totally blind or we like to fool ourselves. We consume “things” because we’re trying to fill some sort of need.

    I think Mortimer J. Adler calls doing nothing “leisure time” and it’s time which people used to have to contemplate life but has all but disappeared. I believe its value is highly underestimated. Perhaps if we had more time doing nothing, we would make better decisions in life, as organizations and as people.

    Great post!

    1. Thank You! Exactly my point…where is this progress supposed to lead us! Thank You for the heads up on Mortimer J Adler…I ended up reading some great stuff that he has written on leisure

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