Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

I am unashamedly copying a fellow blogger today – his rather excellent post of yesterday evening featured a quote by Epicurus. Coincidentally, in that spooky way that Google algorithms surround Gmail with relevant ads, I found ‘quote of the day’ – a website with quotes by many famous people. I can’t remember which quote lead me to click on the link, or whether it was simply that it was another philosopher’s words, but the link took me to the quote in the title of this post (as said by Socrates), which struck me like a drumstick hitting a gong (one of the really big ones).

It’s sad but true that being busy and spending my relatively little free time trying to forget that I’m busy means I’m spending time like Brewster spends his millions. In G2 a couple of weekends ago, there was an article about the increasing trend to spend around six hours working at the weekend; doing domestic chores, paying bills and undertaking other home maintenance-type jobs. The article explains that this is likely caused by a shift in attitudes towards housework – instead of chores being considered part of the daily routine, they are now pushed to the weekend in favour of an ‘evening off’ (or five). There is also a suggestion that this is related to the fact that the housewife is less common in our modern society. I’ll admit that at my lowest points in the last six months I’ve thought favourably about employing my time cooking, cleaning and maintaining my little house. Sadly, this won’t pay the bills or clear my student debts.

It may be stating the bloody obvious, but being busy often prevents one enjoying the task in hand, and what’s so enjoyable about a task that has to be done, anyway? Being busy seems to prevent rumination and impares the ability to ponder. I hate being ruled by the clock: I like to be ambitious about what I can fit into a day (especially one that involves social activities), but am often thwarted by ticking hands. Another quote, this time less profound: “Who has time? But then if we never take time, how can we ever have time?” (Merovingian, Matrix Reloaded). It means nothing, but the sentiment is clear: if you are too busy to enjoy life, then what’s the point of being busy?

There is something innately fulfilling about stopping, and I find that at my most busy, my body either pauses of its own accord, or I find a quiet place to be still for a while. There’s nothing like it for catching up with yourself and staving off ‘incipient panic’ (to quote my colleague). There’s a similar concept in Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – it’s called ‘soul delay’ and describes that period of limbo following travel between your body arriving and its destination and your mental faculties, your ‘soul’, catching up with you. It suggests to me that a soul can only travel at walking pace, which I find a visually compelling idea – one that could potentially be translated into a philosophy or maxim: live life at walking pace.

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2 thoughts on “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

  1. But if you slow down and live life at a walking pace will you get anxious that you’re not planning or completing enough ‘tasks’? I reckon it’s all a bit Catch 22!

    Like the simile in the first paragraph.

  2. Hmm. In true ‘the grass is always greener’ style, I think if you’re taking things slowly enough to marvel and find enjoyment, then what is not being done will pale into insignificance. Besides which, don’t forget the story of the Hare and the Tortoise! We don’t make animal allegories for nothing!!

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