A few months ago I read an article by Tim Kreider called The Busy Trap. It perfectly articulated the way my thoughts were heading at that time. Every time I return to the article I am reminded that there is no point in being busy, and can once again see clearly the madness of the busy trap.
Here are some passages from The Busy Trap that rang true :
“What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.”
I’m sure this is true. I don’t believe any of us are driven, cranky and anxious by nature. To think that we are deformed by our environment is sad, but also liberating. If we can accept that it is our environment that makes us this way, we can make the choice to be different.
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
It does feel like a way to give an empty life meaning. If I can say I’m busy, then my life must have purpose. I wonder if I could have the strength to not be busy. I know it’s something of an obsession for me, to always be doing something – moving from one project to the next. I cycle from busy to burned out on a monthly basis. I wonder if it’s possible to stop?
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth”
Oh to bring more idleness into my life. To think that idleness might the the necessary condition for lightning strikes of inspiration makes me long for more idleness. Strangely I have always said exactly this to the kids ‘ What’s that? You’re bored? Great, that’s when you get your best ideas. Just wait a little longer and you’ll get some awesome ones!”
So where does that leave me and my busy life? Some thoughts:
- Is writing a form of idleness if you sit with a coffee and and pen meaningless stream of consciousness? Maybe.
- We owe it to our children to allow them idleness, every day, for as many minutes and hours as possible.
- How much more meaningful could my life become if I embraced idleness?
- What am I afraid of? My own thoughts?