In praise of purposelessness

For an appropriate follow up to the last blog, I’ve been thinking about how much I value a respite from purpose. So much of what I do is a means, part of something else, in pursuit of a variety of goals. One of the differences between Alex and me relates to purpose, and it was something we noticed (and even argued about) very early on in our relationship. The fundamental problem was that in pursuit of relaxation, Alex liked to do nothing, and I liked to do something. In fact, I used to get anxious when I had ‘free time’, which may have been caused by the fact that I always planned to do much more than I would possibly have time to fit in. Over the years, we have subconsciously come to inhabit a middle ground – I still plan things and he still goes with the flow, but we understand the value of each approach. However, to this day, he still finds it odd that I ‘plan to relax’. Perhaps this is just a linguistic problem, but I think not!

Awareness is often a casualty of purpose – specifically, when we purpose to do something, we can often miss that which is not directly related to the activity or the goal. Purposelessness allows the mind time to wander, and gives us a chance to notice things. I find that noticing things is entirely pleasurable (even when the thing being noticed is not to one’s tastes) – it’s an affirmation that you are a part of the world, that you can be influenced and affected by what is happening around you. Even though we cannot live completely without purpose (and I’m trying really hard not to quote Agent Smith, here), a bit of purposelessness can put everything into perspective. So go on, find yourself a bit of time to simply be… open your wallet and notice the collection of fluff into the corner of the zipper pocket and the items you’re storing that aren’t money. Walk down the street and concentrate on the sensation of putting one foot in front of the other. Get on a bus and stay on it – see where it normally goes when you’ve alighted. Lie down on your sofa and stare at the ceiling; notice the cracks and the blemishes, listen to the sounds of your living space. As for me, I’ll be purposing to find time for purposelessness!!

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3 thoughts on “In praise of purposelessness

  1. Hey B – that tall Northerner sent me your blog, hope you don’t mind me reading it!

    I like what you said about noticing things…it struck a chord. Can’t describe it as well as you but I do the same thing, just wander about thinking and mentally registering meaningless things! It’s somehow satisfying :o)

  2. Reminded me of a chapter in an Alain De Botton book (philosophy for the uneducated, like me) about Xavier de Maistre. He wrote a book about a journey he took: around his bedroom. De Botton contrasts that with a journey that Alexander von Humboldt took to South America. His point is that you can notice things wherever you are, just as you point out, given the right conditions.

    I’m off to see what I’ve got in my wallet…

  3. Hi Anna

    It’s nice to have you along for the ride – thanks for making the effort to comment, and thanks to that tall northerner for proliferating the blog 🙂

    Bx

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