Monday, August 22, 2011

Benefit of being idle

Family pausing from walk to view pond
I read with great appreciation an opinion piece in today's StarTribune, Ideas come to the idle, and we are not.  The author of this commentary, Christian Ewen, suggests that we work too much, eat too fast, don't sleep enough, socialize too little and spend too much time in traffic.  Our harried lives don't provide time to let our creative juices flow.  

I'm a huge fan of the value of slowing down to walk, think and observe our natural surroundings.  The writer Henry David Thoreau noted the following "Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow."

Bike break by pond
In concluding his article on promoting the value of idleness Mr. Ewen quotes the poet Mary Oliver, who speaks to the importance of solitude for creative work...  "It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching till it comes to that certainty which it aspires to. ... Privacy, then. A place apart --- to pace, chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again."


  1. Dan,
    I've often thought of how to address this in the classroom. It's not just creative juices that are activated through idleness,though. Have you noticed that if you're trying to solve a problem, sleeping on it or going for a walk often leads to an "aha" moment? Maybe that's the creativity seeping in.

  2. Dave, Great question about how to address this in the classroom. I'm not sure either. I'm guessing you don't want to have too much down time, or chaos could ensue. What grade level are you teaching? I remember having to put my head down for periods of time in elementary school. Could you play music and have time for reflection/journaling?

  3. I'm teaching fifth grade. I do have an "old school" stereo system that hooks into my iPod... and we do journal in my room. I'll try to fit it into the silent reading, journaling, and listening to music time. Lots of pressure to get more done and be more efficient in schools, though.

  4. Yes, I know that there has been considerable pressure to teach to the state and national test requirements. MAYBE if they included a test for creativity teachers could have more freedom to nurture this side of learning!