Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Busyness again

I've written on this blog in the past about busyness and the importance of not being too busy to sit and just be (and listen to God, as I wrote previously, but this could be put differently). Well, no secrets here - I'm rubbish at this. I lurch from one activity to another (work, time with family, voluntary activities, housework, church...) and have become quite bad at stopping to smell the flowers, as it were. Indeed, I've fallen into a worse trap: quite frequently now when someone asks how I am, my default response is to say "oh, busy".

It's not an especially health frame of mind. I'm very influenced by my Presbyterian upbringing (as I increasingly realise) and so-called Protestant work ethic (plenty of other religious cultures have it too), so I do value hard work and I do like to see concrete outcomes from what I do. But being constantly busy, or at least feeling that way, does no-one any good.

These reflections are not just indeed to be confessional, but were inspired by an interesting article, "The Busy Trap", by Tim Kreider in the New York Times (which was linked to by John Naughton). Kreider writes:
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. ... 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.
So I'm going to spend the evening reading my novel. Once I've finished the washing up...

1 comment:

  1. I like that, Magnus. It could be argued that I suffer from a lack of busy-ness - I am time-rich but cash-poor, but actually quite like it that way round! I find 'down-time' does nurture creativity - I didn't *plan* the summer pudding I made today, it came together because I had the time in which to pick the loganberries, wonder what to do with them, get the rest of the ingredients together and mess around with cut-up bits of bread. I'm also very fond of doing nothing - sitting in my armchair as darkness falls, and just reflecting on my day - a habit born of exhaustion, maybe, but actually a very useful to thing to do, in terms of recharging my mental and emotional batteries. I sometimes wonder if my need for this kind of space is a result of being an only child for eleven years? It would be interesting to see what others think.