Thursday, August 23, 2012

The value of idelness

If you have a just a few minutes for thought, I would highly recommend reading a New York Times opinion piece by Tim Kreider, "The 'Busy' Trap."  He noted, among many astute observations, "The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment."
Bird with morning silhouette

Mr. Kreider further wrote... "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."

A modern day mystic, Eckhart Tolle, observed "The real 'doing nothing' implies inner nonresistance and intense alertness."

Chuang Tzu, as interpreted by Thomas Merton, provided the following sage advise "If you practice non-doing (wu wei), you will have both happiness and well-being."  I recently shared this recommendation with some folks at church and they quickly retorted, yes, perhaps, and you will soon be out of a job.  

To keep our jobs we may need to "look busy" at work.  Perhaps we can also set aside moments for reflection, prayer, and 'nothingness', despite the inevitable pressures and time lines.

Here's a radical idea. What if we no longer considered idle hands as being the devils playground, but rather we thought of idleness as being next to godliness?

PS  If you're interested in this subject a fun and thought provoking book is "You don't have to be Buddhist to know nothing: An illustrious collection of thoughts on naught", conceived and edited by Joan Konner. 

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