Sunday, April 29, 2012

Doing Nothing

Growing up in my family, we were not allowed to 'do nothing.'
What did that mean? Doing nothing usually meant you were not doing worthwhile things- 'worthwhile' of course, meaning what my mother thought was constructive and valuable. 
Say for instance we were lounging around reading a novel (okay- a Harlequin Romance to be honest. It was exams and not having a TV. this was a way to release stress). 
My mother would say, "Stop your leisure reading and come help with the cooking/changing the baby's diaper/ hanging the wash/ sweeping the floor." 
Today, people are happy if their kids are 'reading' at all. Even Facebook looks good! 

After school, we had to go straight to my mum's tailor workshop and help with the sewing until supper time. 
My sister nicknamed my mum the Colonialist-she worked everyone around her hard: us, those in her employ, and most of all herself.
But we hardly complained. Why? Because in fairness to my mum, there was always so much to do. The work had to be done; our mother needed our help. There was no question about it, she couldn't do without us.

When I grew up and had kids of my own, I found out that I had very much, the same position as my mum. Correction. I have the same position. It's really difficult for me to see my daughter watching ANTM for hours on end. She should be up and about- exercising, gardening, practicing violin, helping around the house and so on and so on. She should not be 'wasting her time.'
I have had to train myself- who am I kidding? I'm still in training- to recognize the value in 'doing nothing.'
First of all, I have to remind myself that what might seem useless to me could be valuable -especially to her. 
And though it might seem like nothing will ever come of that interest, there might be ingredients to a fulfilling career/pre-occupation lying in wait that will emerge in the long run.
Even if nothing 'obvious' comes of it, whose life is it anyway? 
Who am I to judge what is valuable and what is not?

There's the 'wasting time' side of things and there's the really 'doing nothing,' as in gazing off into space doing nothing.
Or sitting by the lake, staring into the water. Or meditation.Call it resting your mind. Doing less creates space in which to do more, better.

Sound strange? Not really. Think about it. When your mind is teaming with information, constant chatter, and 'to do lists,' there is no room in there for anything with depth to take hold. Emptying the mind, stilling your thoughts helps you centre and focus.

When it comes to kids, author and scientist, Joseph Pearce of the Magical Child explained that kids will often go off into wide- eyed nothingness; where little appears to be going on to the onlooker. In reality this is where the connections are taking place in the brain and we do well to leave them alone.Interrupting them to bring them to attention could mean developmentally, a lost opportunity to them.

Did you know?
Britain has produced a range of remarkably gifted multidisciplinary scientists and scholars who are sometimes described as polymaths. The group included, in recent times, Bertrand Russell, A. N. Whitehead, J. B. S. Haldane, J. D. Bernal, and Jacob Bronowski. Russell commented that the development of such gifted individuals required a childhood period in which there was little or no pressure for conformity, a time in which the child could develop and pursue his or her own interests no matter how unusual or bizzare. Because of the strong pressures for social conformity both by the government and by peer groups in the United States -- and even more so in the Soviet Union, Japan, and the People's Republic of China -- I think that such countries are producing proportionately fewer polymaths ....
- Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden (Ballantine, 1977)


Scotcho Libre said...

I've always suspected this to be true, but the pressure to conform is real, and it takes some kind of will to push back against it. It could cost you friendships when you are young that's for sure.

Now that I am old that's the way I want to live. "everbody just leave me alone and let me do what I want!" haha.

BTW, Bertrand Russell was brilliant.

celeste said...

John Lennon used to have 'bed in's'- and we all know how prolific he was. Depends on the person.

rfs said...

It takes will but it is worth it. Living authentically is more rewarding in the long run. Unschoolers don't want to wait until they are old to do what they want!
Thanks for posting!

rfs said...

@Celeste-Thanks for that titbit of info! Cool.

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