On doing nothing
Gradually I’m reaching a point where I can actually stop doing things, stop juggling three dozen things in my head to make sure everything gets done. Single work prompts are still surfacing: ‘We didn’t do Ketan’s three-month rise!’, or ‘Will they remember the retail price line in the Hot Tens?’ But lack of action and general disregard is teaching those circuits to calm down, and eventually switch off.
For a few more weeks there will be little things, and I’ll have to add travel things-to-do to the list – the jabs, the tickets, the insurance. But I can sit quietly now and clear out my mind, much as I cleared out the bungalow at Rosecroft Gardens last week.
It was when everything was cleared in the bungalow that I had my first reminder of the speed at which thoughts race when you take away some of the mind’s stimuli. Everything had been boxed and driven home, and there was no TV, no music (even the transistor radio had run down), no nothing. I sat on a chair and drifted off into thoughts – wild racing thoughts that led me down path after path, ideas leaping from the calm ocean of mind to be grasped, examined, followed and let go… I paused, came back to earth and checked my watch: five minutes. Perhaps I was wrong. I drifted off into thought again, had a wonderful collection of conjecture – only three minutes. Dreamtime.
A Pascal line came to mind, that the disease of Western man is never being happy in an empty room. I’ve always thought that a terrible accusation – someone unhappy in an empty room is unhappy with their own company. After three and a half years of travelling I was extremely happy in an empty room – ‘Ah, nothing to do today’ I’d think, and stretch out listening to the sounds of the market below. When I arrived home I was positively bewildered by the amount of stuff I had: what could I possibly do with it all? In one lifetime! But of course all the stuff becomes the wealth of distraction which keep us from original thought – easier to react to external input, to passively absorb, than to create something new from existing patterns.
So now I’m relearning to sit, and think. And do nothing.
8th September ’98