Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Doing Nothing

I swear that the corners of every table and countertop in our house come up and hit me in the arm or leg every time I pass by.

My husband says I am just moving too fast.

No, but really, how do they have such good aim, I implore. Every time I move, something seems to hit me. "Ah-ha!" he says, "You’re moving too fast. Slow down."


He's right. I still think it's weird, though, how my elbows, for instance, are so magnetically attracted to corners of doors and any handle that happens to be sticking out.

In my paltry efforts to "slow down" (despite having two children under the age of 4 and 2 cats and having just moved and having a trillion items, literally, to organize [Why am I such a packrat? Fodder for another blog...]), I am trying to take the advice of British author Tom Hodgkinson to heart, a man who wrote a book entitled "How to Be Idle" and who edits a magazine called The Idler. [I must read these!]

The magazine Real Simple featured 10 pearls of his wisdom in an article this year called "10 ways to enjoy doing nothing," among them, “banish the guilt,” “play the ukelele,” and “pretend to meditate.”

For me, the hardest part about slowing down and doing nothing is probably the guilt that goes with it. Hodgkinson rejected his own guilt “upon learning that Europeans in the Middle Ages felt no shame for lolling about.” Hodgkinson pooh-poohs the guilt as being something the Calvinists and Puritans foisted upon us so we'd work harder. “When you understand that it hasn’t always been this way, it becomes easier to shake it off.” [Okay, I’ll try to remind myself of that each time a new wave of guilt hits me.]

As for playing the ukulele, well maybe I should pick up the guitar again and strum that from time to time, in between diaper changes, or maybe during them! Hodgkinson’s wife hates the sounds of that ukulele, as it signifies the sound of his doing nothing useful in the house.

As for pretending to meditate, “For us westerners,” Hodgkinson writes, “meditation is an accepted way of doing nothing.” I don’t know how to meditate, so pretending to do so will be easy. It’s just finding the time….

Hodgkinson also suggests lying in a field, gazing at clouds and napping as good activities [!] for doing nothing. In fact, it’s our own sense of busy-ness, our “restless activity” that got us into this environmental crisis in the first place, according to him. It’s true, don’t you think? We always feel like we have to be doing something, working on something, building, expanding, economically growing, that we end up creating exhaust fumes, burning energy, using resources, etc. just to get stuff done! [Right on, man!]

Even blogging about this is using computer energy. Rather than lazing on the couch with my two sleeping cats and reading a book (or not, as that would require some electrical lighting at this late hour), I am hammering away at the keyboard.

My husband says people who do less actually accomplish more.

So if I slowed down, did nothing, then slowed down some more [Is that possible?], I might have fewer bruises and actually get more done? Hmmm, my brain churns. Could I trick the system into knocking off my To Do List somehow? 


  1. Tania, we have a whole book about doing nothing. Remind me to show it to you the next time you come over. By the way, when are you all coming over? We need to schedule some quality time.

  2. Darling, Throw Your Hands Up & Let It All Go!!!! I believe that if you want more control over things (even being idle) you must try not to control them. Let things be, don't overthink it all. You'll find guilt has no place in reality...