Some time back, I happened to bump into an old friend and went on to exchange notes on our current status. ” Are you keeping busy?” she asked me, concernedly. While I fumbled for an answer, she continued gravely. ” I’m very busy, I’m involved with many things”. Luckily, I was spared an admission of my own abysmal state of un-busyness, because matters of greater busyness, distracted her attention.
Not so long ago, anyone who sat around doing nothing even for short spells, ‘wasting time’, in a world of busyness, would immediately be labelled an idler and attract undiluted scorn. And the counterpart, anyone constantly involved in a zillion things, always busy, commanded awe and respect, for leading a productive and worthwhile life.
Currently, though, that view, seems to have been overturned. Red flagged for years by medical and mental health professionals, realization seems to have finally dawned, that all work and no play, made Jack not only dull but a very sick boy too and it was imperative to have regular spells of idleness, for both mental and physical health.
This isn’t actually a pathbreaking shift in thinking . Bertrand Russell, made this point years ago in his ” In Praise of Idleness” where he notes, that we are brainwashed by a manipulated mentality into worshipping work, seeing it as a virtue, scorning leisure and idleness as laziness and weakness, instead of seeing it as the origin of our power and social justice.
The change in perception didn’t happen overnight. From seeing unremitting work as godly, to accepting that workaholism was the surest route to stress, burnout, downward spirals, took time. It was hard to accept that being busy was fine but being overly busy, could lead to suppressing crucial feelings and concerns, consciously or unconsciously, possibly leading to mental turmoil. Nor was it easy to accept that taking some time out, was the best and simplest prophylactic.
But thankfully, the penny seems to have finally dropped time that it’s quite ok to spend some time everyday, re connecting with ourselves mindfully, creating inner value, exploring stillness and daily self renewal, mentally and physically.
Even better news is that FOMO, fear of missing out, social anxiety, the fear of not being included in some enjoyable activity that others are experiencing, has now been edged out, by its antidote, JOMO, joy of missing out. Finding joy in what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t. Finally, we have an official nod, to stay away from attending the hundred and one( mostly inconsequential) engagements, which ironically, creates even more social insecurity.
Theres a whole new spin to laziness, to being couch potatoes, and slackers. It’s commonly accepted now, that being tactically lazy can lead to more productivity, good decisions and better mental health.
Lech Walesa, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had said.” I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.” The seemingly lazy bum, is perhaps also practicing, the balance of inner stillness with the hectic parleys of the world outside and he’s probably happier, than the busiest bee.
All this is a quite a shift from time honoured beliefs like ‘Work is God’ and ‘Work is Worship’, or as Russel said, to think that all activities had to be materially profitable, to be worthwhile.
Final thought. I can now freely revel in my un-busy state. In fact, I’m feeling more like my newest plant, putting down it’s roots to grow organically. Letting things take their own course, being productive yet being at home with myself.
In truth, as a home, it’s the best and probably, the best way to be, too.