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!

How To Think About Great Idea Project

I have always been fascinated by Philosophy. Its not like I always understood the subject completely and I often struggled with many of its theories, but I could not let go of this wondering fascination I had on this subject. I absolutely loved my Political Philosophy classes during my Graduate School days; a great credit also goes to the brilliant professor who taught us this jaw breaking subject and I remember the multiple re-reads I did of Plato’s Republic to get a hang of it, which fortunately I did before I graduated! Very recently,I have trying to find the time and make the effort to re-connect again with this subject and I have started and made extremely slow progress with Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophers and Albert Schopenhauer lies by my bed side book table urging me to pick it up and get going. Some critics even contend that Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is in fact fundamentally a philosophical treatise and as I read more, I have to agree.

In this kind of background, Cleo, my reading buddy and my fellow adventurer in all reading madness, came up with the idea of reading How To Think About Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler’s. Adler in his book, discusses 52 ideas ranging from a broad variety of subjects from Truth to Morality to Politics. The plan is to spend one week reading about one idea and then posting it a blog on the same. The chapters are not particularly long but they are tough!Now knowing how easy my life is, I did wrangle a promise from Cleo, that we pace it out and while we attempt to complete one subject a week, we may take longer. Good thing, I did, because I am already falling behind. However I have started on the first chapter and needless to say, I am finding my mind doing extraordinary gymnastics until it hurts. So even if I inch at a snail’s pace, I will see this through and hopefully at the end of the whole exercise have a more pandered and more educated mind!

Hence I start! Do wish me luck!