The clock ticks. The hours roll slowly by. I have no plans, there is nothing I want to do except be quiet and reflective and learn how to wait quietly, listening to the tick of my mind. I am learning, slowly, to do nothing, or when I do something to focus entirely upon it. I am not good at either of these things yet; I am marginally more adept at focus but only because I am so used to filling every moment of my time. It takes effort, doing nothing. It is hard not to reach for a book, or the TV remote, or to put my headphones on and listen to a podcast, or surf the internet, or do some research, or play a game, or do some sewing, or write something. In fact I am writing this, in a way, to fill some time. I guess we are always doing something, even when doing nothing. Doing nothing, itself, is a thing. It is a thing when we decide to do nothing as an act of learning to do nothing. Doing nothing, then, becomes a something. It is something aspired to, desired, it is an objective in itself. Perhaps doing nothing can only occur when we do not set out to do it, but instead allow nothingness to seep inside us, to claim us. Perhaps we do nothing only in death.
I wonder when it became so difficult to do nothing at all, not to fill our minutes with mindless entertainment, or connecting, or socialising (personally or virtually). I blame the artificial light. Before the artificial light there would have been hours and hours of darkness in which it was difficult to do anything. Streets were impassable, dangerous even. The countryside locked into darkness. People might have gathered around fireplaces, around smoky, inefficient candles, and perhaps done a little sewing, or talked, or eaten. Perhaps they would have sat in silence, watching the flames flickering their merry dance. There may have been a little reading, perhaps sharing of local gossip or troubles or concerns. Perhaps a little napping. Perhaps the warmth would spread over the watchers like a soft blanket, depressing, coddling, soothing all the troubles, the little difficult moments of the day, from the mind so that silence would reign and no one would be thinking about what they’ve missed at the cinema or theatre, what such-and-such said or did on Facebook, how quickly they can catch up with Game of Thrones, or their Christmas shopping, or that nice dress they saw in an advert in the sidebar of a website they were looking at earlier that day. The danger with doing nothing resides almost entirely in our fear of missing out. If we don’t use this time, it is wasted. Maybe only by allowing time to flow can we see it for what it is. It is not a substance, it has no tangible aspect. We can not stop it nor arrest it nor even slow it down, except by paying it close attention and then, when we do, every second burns like a drop of hot wax on the skin. We are trapped with ourselves, confronted by everything we are and everything we are not. Doubts assail us. It is easier to make ourselves believe we have no time at all, by filling up all our seconds thoughtlessly, with things that are thrust upon us, instead of choosing, deliberately, intentionally, how we want to spend our precious, limited moments. Perhaps doing nothing is so painful because it leaves us nowhere to hide.