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Emma Storris

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop or why being bored is a good thing

The above proverb is meant to instil fear into people’s heart, fear of doing nothing. Sounds scary enough, so it would work for me, if I would believe in a devil, which I don’t. Who needs a devil when taking into consideration what some people are capable of? But that’s beside the point. We were talking about idle hands. I was brought up to believe that doing nothing is never a good thing. And I kind of agree in the sense that you cannot expect to just get whatever you want without exertion. You will have to work for the stuff you need. That goes for material matters, like money and tangible things. But it also goes for getting forward mentally and spiritually, like gaining knowledge and skills. You cannot reasonably expect to hold up your hands and everything to just tumble into them.

When did we lose track of what the bare essentials are?

What I don’t agree with is that doing nothing, just plain sitting on your behind and being idle would be unacceptable. When you have done whatever it is you need to get by and you have taken care that you have food, drink and shelter, why shouldn’t you laze about?  Why shouldn’t that be such an inherent part of your life that you’d actually consider it more important than that amazing career? Why does our society frown upon people who say they have gained enough when they have just sufficient to live on and now think it is time to sit beneath the tree with that really appealing looking patch of shade beneath it? Idle hands are the devil’s workshop seems to have become synonymous with work until you literally drop, with no time to just enjoy yourself.

Choosing to live a good life

You are born, you live, you die. Let’s assume, without wanting to get into metaphysical discussions, that’s about it. Being born is a passive verb, living and dying are active ones. That is suitable, really. Being born, you can’t help that, it happens to you. Living and dying are activities that you can influence. You influence how you live and how you die. It isn’t the case that you always have to do everything the way the people around you do them. At the moment most people spend the time between birth and death gathering as much material wealth as possible, which we will all have to leave behind when we leave this life. To enable that wealth we are ransacking the planet we live on at neck breaking speed. And we frown upon those who refuse to partake in that, which is completely illogical. Methinks that it makes more sense to take care of the place you live in and off and work only for what you need, so you can have plenty of time just enjoying that great gift that life is.

But hey, that’s just me. Maybe I’m one sandwich short of a picnic, have a screw loose, am plain crazy. That might just be the case, you never know. I don’t think so, but the majority seems to disagree with me at times. Statistically seen, the norm in our society is what 80% of people value, do or think. I’m afraid that in many cases I’m one of the other 20%, which would make me not belonging to the norm or, in other words, abnormal. I am sure earth and humanity would be doing a lot better if I would belong to the normal ones. Thank goodness abnormal people usually are paving the way for what later becomes the norm. A woman may hope…

Bore yourself to inspiration

Apart from the whole ethical discussion, there is another great side-effect to doing nothing: inspiration. Nothing is as deadly to inspiration and creativity as always having to do things, always having to walk the treadmill. Treadmills kill good ideas. They just don’t pop up any more when you are stuck in a rut, choked by obligations, whether or not you put them on yourself. I know so many people who would like to change their lives. But if you ask them when, what and how, they can’t tell you. They are so stuck in their patterns that inspiration is hard to come by. In that case the best idea is to take some time off and just do nothing.

And by boredom I really mean boredom!

That is harder than it sounds. Unfortunately, it is not a case of just sitting still and the ideas just coming right back five minutes later. No, at first you will experience a whole lot of restlessness. A voice in your head will tell you that you have so much to do and take care of that you are nuts to just sit there. Then there is the voice that I like to call the insurance broker. That particular voice will point out to you that your retirement hasn’t been taken care of and you really have to gather as much money and goods as possible, RIGHT NOW!! The tough thing about silencing the insurance broker is that everyone knows that nothing is certain so insurances count for nothing, but still wants to take out several kinds of cover, just to be on the safe side. When the insurance broker gets to you, you wiggle about restlessly underneath your tree, doing sums in your head to check your finances.

As hard as it is, you will just have to get yourself through that. The trap that many fall into at this point is distracting their protesting, addicted mind by means of television and social media. However, this will not work. Although you will be a) sitting on your couch comfortably and b) enjoying the fact that the annoying little voice is quiet at last, it will not lead to the clarity of mind and inspiration that you long for. Instead it will lead to deadened senses.

Kicking the habit of keeping busy

No, you will have to do it the hard way and kick the habit, go cold turkey. Confront yourself with the restlessness, with the fact that obligation doesn’t exist and security is fictional. Granted, it is tough, I know all about it. When we decided to walk the unschooling path we went through it all. I spent days sitting on my hands, sweating profusely, desperately suppressing the urge to drag my kids of the couch and push their idle noses into schoolbooks and useg the mild threat of a lunge whip to chase them through the chapters (and, yes people, this is a metaphor, no whips being used here). Thank goodness we neither had television nor internet at the time.

After a while the feeling of urgency passed and we were able to switch on and off whenever we either needed to work or needed to relax. Inspiration and creativity re-entered our home. We found out that we do not really need much: the people around us, a warm home, good food and water, music and each other. Because we have now a more acute awareness of what we really need, we are able to do more with less. There are moments that the annoying insurance broker rears his ugly head (usually by phone around dinner time 😉 ), but it is now easier to retrieve that inner peace. To take a deep breath and shake off the unrest caused by social pressure and expectations and go on doing what is important: living, with every cell of our bodies.

I’m full of ideas. Creativity is practically pouring out of my ears and pores, there’s so much of it. If I wanted to do everything, I wouldn’t have time to do nothing every now and then. But I’m definitely not falling for that anymore…

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