I spend a lot of time staring off into space. Sometimes I drive for hours in the countryside north of my house, just watching the trees and fields glide by. A favourite weekend activity is ‘sitting’.
In other words, I like doing nothing.
Well, not really nothing. In those moments of stillness, my body is, as poet and activist Bif Naked puts it, ‘unclenching’. My thoughts float into a more creative zone where new ideas and creative solutions to problems reside. Sometimes even my soul comes out of its shell, and we have a talk over a cup of tea.
In the 1990’s, Seinfeld – a show about nothing – became one of the most ground breaking comedies in television history. Turns out, they were on to something. A number of studies have shown that energy is restored to our brain cells while we sleep. Play is so vital to children’s social, physical and cognitive development that it is recognized by the United Nations as a right for every child.
Doing nothing may not be a popular concept in North American society, where busyness is seen as a status symbol, but it has its fans. God took a break from creating the world and rested on the seventh day. Dogs have got it down to a fine art. And A.A. Milne advocated it decades ago in his own inimitable way:
Christopher Robin: What I like most of all is just doing nothing.
Winnie the Pooh: How do you do just nothing?
Christopher Robin: Well, when grown-ups ask, ‘What are you going to do?’ and you say, ‘Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.
Winnie the Pooh: I like that. Let’s do it all the time.