Tim Kreider‘s opinion piece in the Sunday Times, The ‘Busy’ Trap, is a timely summertime reminder of how easy it is to lose touch with our own rhythms, our own pacing. Kreider, a writer and cartoonist, has written an admonition that runs counter to the prevailing—and increasing—trends in our culture to overbook, overextend, overcomplexify.
And it isn’t working.
I have been an artist for 40 years. And the longer I am at this vocation the more I understand how critical it is for me to pull away from that workaholic, perpetually in motion mentality. And as regular readers of this blog know, I consistently advocate stepping away from the should have/could have/would have’s to listen more carefully to that inner sense of balance. Isn’t it possible to be productive and also make room each day for the quiet mind? I’m still a beginner at figuring out what this looks like for me. But I am devoutly devoted to finding out how.
A few excerpts from Kreider:
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work…The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it…Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.
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. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth.
My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love…Life is too short to be busy.