Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In Praise of Nothing

As i was racing through the bookstore yesterday, on my way to the trashy novels, i was stopped by this book:

It actually reached out and smacked me on the shoulder as i went by. So i stopped and took a peek and bought it. I haven't read it yet, but i will.

Last week i met another retired person, and he asked me what i did with my time. (I realized after he asked me this, that he really was waiting for me to ask him back so he could tell me about the fabulous things that he is doing.) I get asked that question with some frequency. It's always hard for me to answer. I exercise, i read, i have lunch with friends, i blog. Not much. Certainly nothing exciting to talk about.

I don't have a passion. I am not writing a novel or making music or traveling the world taking pictures of rare animals. (Two of which the above mentioned man was doing.) I am not collecting violins or opening a start-up company or attending board meetings of charitable organizations. I am not creating art, or becoming a master gardener or learning how to make gourmet meals.

What i am doing is being perfectly happy doing nothing of any importance to the world. I'm so happy that i am not even ashamed of my lack of purpose.

I do not want to be criticising people who do these things. Have at it, i say. But it's also okay to just be living. It's more than okay, it's great! I highly recommend it.

I looked on Amazon this morning, so as to get the picture of the book, and it appears that there are quite a few books about being idle and doing nothing. I had no idea that there is a small, but growing, movement out there for Idlers.

Damn, I hope i won't feel moved to write my own book about it.

36 comments:

jen said...

amen. it's one of the main motivators for our sabbatical. life is so much more than doing.

it's the being. and so contrary isn't it, to what our society preaches as gospel.

Sober Briquette said...

I think there are a sad lot of people who retire and don't know how to "do" it. My husband will be one of those, if the recently passed vacation (and all those preceding it, truth be told) is any indication. My mother, too, a reasonably healthy woman all her life, who was stricken with hypochondria when she retired.

Me, it was what I was born to do. Idle.

platypus said...

I'm so good at being idle that it's not even funny. I need the sequel - How NOT to be Idle!

flutter said...

Good for you, I say. I wish I was better at just being

TTQ said...

Yesterday I thought about what I could contribute to this life, in the end I decided that I was already doing it, by staying out of the way. People ask me what I do all day.. all the time. Like I'm rotting away at home watcing tv.. which by the way I don't do during the day.

QT said...

I can't wait to be retired to be idle OR garden as long as I want OR spend 45 minutes in a wine store, etc.

The BF lives at a very frenetic pace that doesn't allow for much "milling", as he calls it.

I, for one, applaud your idleness!

Katie said...

Will you please teach me how to be idle? I think this is a skill I need to learn.

Good blog, by the way - I'm glad I came across it!

Marsha said...

I am not sure I trust someone who took the time and effort to write a book about being idle. Sounds more like an accomplisher than an idler to me. Right after my nap I might think about writing one of them books, cause being idle is something I have a lot of expertise in.

Princess in Galoshes said...

Isn't writing and publishing about about how to be idle something of an oxymoron?

I say we all just sit back and let the thought of writing a book about doing something cross our minds, then we excuse it, and go on thinking about not much.

There's a balance in life, but I really do agree that it's good to take time to not DO anything.

thailandchani said...

I like this Dorothy Parker quote for the very reasons you say...

"I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do any thing. Not one single thing." -Dorothy Parker



Peace,

~Chani

Mrs. Chili said...

I really, really need to learn how to do nothing: or, rather, I need to RE-learn it. I am overscheduled, and it's a vicious cycle that just keeps perpetuating (and increasing) itself....

meno said...

jen, you are right, it is so contrary to this country's f'ed up work ethic.

de, my husband will be one as well. He could retire now, but he doesn't. Idle on, you!

platypus, see? you are all ready for retirement.

flutter, practice, practice, practice.

ttq, so you know what i mean. Idlers unite!

qt, gardening sounds lovely. I like to look at the results of other people's gardening efforts.

katie, it might just be an inborn gift. And welcome.

marsha, it is kind of ironic isn't it. I guess he has a magazine for Idlers too.

princess, yes indeed, an oxymoron. But if he had fun, i'm all for it. It's not that i don't do anything, just nothing "important".

chani, dorothy was a damn fine woman.

mrs.chili, you have young childen and a job. This is not the time in your life for idling. Later, it will come.

Airam said...

You should do a review for that book on the book blog!! Just sayin ...

ms chica said...

Interesting subject... When I dove into early retirement, I wondered what I would do with myself. Now I'm trying to remember what I did over the weekend. I wasn't bored, and I hardly turn on TV. Oh shit, that's right I de-tailed six pounds of shrimp. Oh Liv....

It's a luxurious way to be when you have no requirements and fewer expectations. Enjoy sister!

Cagey said...

Oh, Meno....
It sounds like you are quite busy with the business of Being Happy. Good for you!

As a SAHM, I get the "what do you do?" question a lot. I feel you. My passions are my husband, kids, my books and my blog. Very selfish endeavours, I guess.

Mama P said...

I really like doing stuff. I'm not an idler. But what I do love is people who love what they do, not do it for the wrong reasons. I say idle if you so choose. As for me, I cait wait to be fifty so I can be an editor of my own big magazine or something disgustingly A-Personality.

Bob said...

pace yourself, girl. at this rate you'll be burned out at.......100.

my dad retired when he was 51, 52 - something like that. Mom a few years after. They have a 5th wheel and take off when the mood strikes (and the diesel prices are down). he likes to geo-cache which gives him a good bit of exercise (and not a few scratches from wandering through briar patches). Mom pals around with her next door neighbor, line dances, shops, stuff like that.

liv said...

Could you take a break from being idle to give me a hug?

Biscotto said...

Someone recently asked me what I did to relax. I was speechless. Then I blurted out, "I own a hammock."

These days I'm going in the opposite direction. I'm all about finding my life's work. I've decided that even if I won the lottery (powerball is 245 million this week, I just happened to notice tonight) I'd still want to do something. Not for the world, for myself.

Don't you kind of want to have that, too?

meno said...

airam, mayhap i will. What book blog?

ms. chica, it's all about managing the expectations i think. One thing i never expected was to be happy.

cagey, i would NEVER ask a mother of two small children what she does with her time. What ignorance. Your passions sound great to me. What else really matters?

mamap, i do lots of stuff, just nothing important in the view of the world. You will be that editor too!

bob, i know, deep breaths. One, Two, Three...LOUNGE! Sounds like a good life they have.

liv, hugs are one of the most important things that i dispense, so of course. What's going on hon?

biscotto, i might wish that for myself, but i cannot force it if it isn't there, for me. I am shocked just to find myself a happy person. Not what i expected. Maybe after a while i will do something.....important. Or maybe not.

Lynn said...

So many people have been brought up to be goal oriented, that they feel if they aren't 'going, doing, achieving, they aren't really living a worthwhile life. It's hard for these same people to understand that the goal in life is to live it, experience it...not to accomplish it.

egan said...

I want to be like you Meno when I grow up.

WNG said...

Isn't it all about choice? I'm busting my a** right now working two jobs so that I can start my own business. Part of me is doing it because I love it and part of me wants to have the financial stability to be able to make choices later in life. Maybe to sit on a dock and watch the world go by, maybe to write the next great american novel, who knows? I look at you and see a woman doing just what she wants and I think that's pretty fabulous.

Tink said...

I wish I could be more idle. I'm so wound up. It always seems there's something I have to be or should be doing. So when I get a little free time I spend it fretting about what I'm not doing. Ugh.

Esereth said...

This matters to me so much. I struggle trying to find a contentedness, to try to figure out if I desire more or if I just THINK I desire more. I am so impressed that you are content (although, maybe you are cuz you used to work and have earned your rest). I will have to keep reading and learning from you.

My husband got that book. I believe he found parts of it quotable.

meno said...

lynn, nicely put!

egan, you have recinded your right to idle for quite a while, sir. But it will be worth every non-idling moment. Give that cute little baby a kiss for me.

wng, i have been there, done that. When i have to work and accomplish things, i am able to do so. Now, i just don't wanna. Your time will come.

tink, i'll send you the book when i am done if it's any good.

esereth, yes, i have worked much of my life. And i am very lucky to be able to abandon the work-all-the-time ethic of this country. But i might feel differently if i had not worked so hard to get here. I know what i can do, if i have to. Try to give yourself permission to relax and be content for a little while. You'll figure it out when you are ready. I did.

LazyLazyMe said...

Um...perhaps the more pressing thought on most people's minds is 'How the fuck do I earn enough money by the time I'm 65 so that I can live my remaining years in something that doesn't resemble poverty'.

Now that's worth writing a book about...

Jennifer said...

Point 1: You are doing plenty of important work in this life of Reilly you're leading. (Who was Reilly, anyway, and what kind of life did he lead, exactly?) Witness the previous pics of your lovely daughter's hair.

Point 2: Ooooo, I hope you WILL feel so moved as to write a book about it!

Mama P said...

I have been thinking a lot about this post. It makes me wonder if I'd value my career as much if it weren't valued by the world as so important. I wonder if it's a lack of confidence on my part to just "be me" or if it's something I'd like anyway? Or is it a lack of communication with Rex or others and so I search for closeness or "intimacy" with alternate sources? Ahhh, I'll never know. Might just have to write a book to find out! LOL.

sari said...

I haven't read all the other comments, but I just bought "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed" by Carl Honore for my stepmother and she said it was very good. I had it recommended to me...so I've been thinking about these same sorts of things myself lately.

Even if we're not "doing" things, it seems like many times there's just too much going on anymore.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Many of us were raised with the dictum, "Idle hands are the devil's plaything."

I"m not buying it.

There is too much frenetic activity just because people are afraid to be alone with their own thoughts. It's crazy-making.

I think we'd all be happier and better balanced if we just lived more and did less.

luckyzmom said...

I have found that the answers that we seek are so difficult to discover because we expect them to be complicated. "Stop and smell the roses".

egan said...

Okay, kissed her for you. I really do worship you.

Barbara said...

I recently retired and have had many of the same thoughts.

meno said...

lazy, you go right ahead.

jennifer, it's important to me! If i ever write a book, which i trult can NOT imagine, it would probably be science fiction.

mamap, but it is interesting to think about. You should write about it.

sari, i'll be interested to hear what you think of it.

hearts, in our house, one of the worst things you could say about someone is that they were lazy. Usually directed at anyone reading a book.

luckyzmom, the answer to life in song lyrics. That's my strategy too.

egan, hmmmm. worship. That scares me.

barbara, thanks for that link. It was eerily familiar.

Susanne said...

Thanks for the reminder. Idle? I don't know how to do that. But then I found that most retired people I know are very busy indeed.