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Unplugged and unhurried

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Your mind does well with spells of idleness, and you need these times to build creativity

We live in an age of digital folly that makes us believe there is virtue in being always connected, always broadcasting. Doing nothing is digital death, a fate worse than actual death. So entrenched is this notion that if you glance away from your digital device or unplug your earphones and take a quick look around, you will see no one just being in the moment, in the current. Rather, with their devices as mediums, they navigate their surroundings mechanically while living in another digital dimension. And while you may expect this to be a youthful trend, a quick scan of the good morning messages on WhatsApp, the colony groups that are now on social media rather than in the neighbourhood park and the overflow of bhajans and religious messages as well as what pass as jokes will disabuse you of this fallacy. Rarely, if ever, does one see anyone, of any age, just sitting on a park bench and staring into space. And when you do, you look again to check if they seem ill or worse!

In this milieu, dare I quote Albert Camus, who once said, “Idleness is fatal, only to the mediocre.” This may sound extreme to most people, but this literary genius was onto something. And something scientific at that. It turns out that your mind does well with spells of idleness, and you need these times to build creativity, come up with solutions to pesky problems and reduce stress levels. An aimlessly wandering mind, it turns out, has immense value to our otherwise ordered and planned existence. It connects the dots and spots the links that otherwise elude our perpetually busy brains and it does so while we are idling.

What about work ethics, you may ask, or the virtues of hard work and perseverance drilled into us since childhood? Well, these are as valid today as when you first heard them, as a child or at the start of your work life. The only difference is that the context of these edicts has changed. As technology and globalisation blur the distinction between work time and other times, work has penetrated all arenas, geographies and spaces in our lives. Even our relationships have been affected and work partners can be as tangible as our lived relationships outside work.

With the kind of time and effort we now spend on our work it needs to be much more than a means to an economic end. It needs to have value, be infused with purpose, and a place to be ourselves. If this means work and life are no longer in opposition and are flexible, fewer hours of work and work-from-home options are growing, all the better. To remain productive and true to both your self and your work in this scenario requires a stronger work ethic than ever before. But alongside, there is room for interludes of idleness where our imagination can take flight and our minds can wander seamlessly, aimlessly.

However, this is not easy to accept or do, for we link being busy and always connected with effectiveness and more importantly with relevance and status. You and I have a million things to get done, place to be or show off about and friends to pout at or with. And perhaps we fear that if we pause our hectic meanderings and their broadcast and stay alone with our thoughts, we may have none! Is it any wonder that there are such few champions of doing absolutely nothing?

Growing up, my mother, an incredibly active and perpetually busy person, had a sign next to her bed that said, somewhat wistfully, “How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards.” As a child this was the motto of my long summer holidays and as I grey into seniority, I can still think of nothing better!

nitasha.devasar@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:16:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/unplugged-and-unhurried/article30306403.ece

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