July 3rd, 2012

red panda eating bamboo

Busyness

I often feel like I don't do enough. Yesterday I was beating myself up for it pretty badly, and then my brain kicked in and I said to myself, "Self, you have a bad cold and you did an hour of paying work, three hours of volunteer work, a couple hours of socializing, and an hour of knitting today. IT'S OK THAT YOU ALSO PLAYED A BUNCH OF TRAINYARD."

So I was happy to see this OpEd on busyness, via [personal profile] whump.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/
Excerpts:
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.”
I first noticed that my sophomore year in college (1984). Before that, I didn't have the right kind of friends and acquaintances to notice it. And my parents shielded me from being too busy. (They used to support my avoiding after-school sports by saying I needed the time to study.)

When I moved to California, I described the cultural shift as "On the East Coast, you keep up with the neighbors by having more stuff. In California, you keep up with the neighbors by having more stuff to do."
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed....They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
I don't know if I would go throwing around the word "addicted," but I agree that most of the time it seems like a choice.
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....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.
And I wouldn't put that in such absolute terms, but it's true for me. I generally only start feeling like doing creative stuff after I've had three full days of almost nothing to do. I almost never get that.
“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites.
Well, for all I know, Clarke smoked bongs and was an anarchist.

I wish the article had gone deeper into the issue of people who commute by bus to three minimum-wage jobs (and/or try to navigate the government aid systems).

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