How Busyness Is Keeping Us From Living A Great Life
A couple things made me think of this. Everyone’s insistence on figuring out what to do on the weekend and that we spend time talking about it. As someone whose true goal on the weekend is to read, study, and practice writing, I need my library time. Time spent among my books and alongside of my cat. She loves library time too.
I sat in there Saturday with her for a while. She had been running around in one of her stir crazy moods. She needs a mouse or something to conquer. I went and sat in the library with a good book and cup of coffee. She jumped up on my type writer sitting behind me and gently purred. The sound went through me. Comforting like a soft breeze or the morning rain. She wanted me to know she was close by and was happy. Once she realized I got it she went and laid in the chair next to me and fell asleep. The whole experience calmed her. I would have missed all that had I been busy running around that afternoon.
The second thing was this quote from Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, stating, “In non-essentialist culture — space, listening, playing, and sleeping can be seen as trivial distractions.” In the big picture he is right. Because if he were wrong then everyone wouldn’t be asking me what my plans are all weekend. They would ask me when I am going to take the time to sit down and talk to people, enjoy quiet, get some extra rest, enjoy some natural space, and listen to my cat purr. People don’t ask that. They want to know what the plan is. What are you going to do to keep busy? They often presume that everyone does things like they do and don’t understand when you don’t.
Quality versus Quantity
One of the hallmarks of our age is quantity. Likes, follows, comments, and shares. It’s about how much. It’s not about the quality of the interaction, but how many interactions. All this concerning people who aren’t even trying to market themselves, officially. This premise filters into our lives. How many vacations, how much did you buy, how many do you have, how big is it. When quantity is the driver quality goes out the door. If we concentrated on quality we might find a level of satisfaction that would circumvent the non-essential. We might find we are happy with less.
On Saturday I took my mom to a great breakfast place. That local place where people are willing to wait up to an hour for a table because the food is great. We enjoyed an amazing meal in a unique environment. Afterwards we went to the local Friends of the Library store where we searched for treasures troves for a great price. The experience was enriching. The store is located near a large Big Ten university which means a lot of great books filter through that store. We spent over an hour hunting and came out with 10–12 books for $25.00. In like new condition. I was ecstatic.
That time in the store was about quality. I could have as easily ordered all those books on Amazon, but there was something special about finding them in person. The library is quiet=space, listening. It was fun to find books that I have been wanting to read=play. Searching through books required reading back covers and introductions. It required time and patience. I was able to interact with store employees. I was able to see people. I was able to listen to sounds and touch material. I slowed down and took the time to have a quality experience. All of which Amazon can’t really provide, though they are great at quantity.
On our way out of town my mom hinted at going to a lot of other stores=quantity. Quantity is not essential and often produces non-essential spending. We can look at many stores and when we do we will be prone to buy things we don’t need. The budget will often go out the door. We will accumulate things we may or may not need. We will do what everyone else does and simply buy stuff as a way to pass time. Why does time need to pass? What are we afraid of in the silence?
I kept driving even though I understood she wanted to keep stopping at stores for hours on end. I had a bag of books and a chair at home in my library that needed filled. I have an open mind and insatiable curiosity that can only be satisfied through study and learning. Something I can do fairly cheap. Something that requires an essentialist mindset, a chair, my reading glasses, a good pen, time, space, and listening. Listening to what the author has to say.
What is really important?
In our constant race to get more and more done can we truly understand what is important? Can we analyze our thoughts? Can we dream dreams? Are we running through a maze blind or are we making intentional decisions?
People often figure out what is important through excruciating circumstances. The death of a loved one, after losing a job, when the business folds, or when they get diagnosed with cancer. When the essential is pruned away we can see life for what it is. It is then we are reminded of the value of spending time with people, enjoying quiet, getting rest, the beauty of space, and the awe of nature. Once the essential is taken from us we see just how worthless most things are. Once the crucible ends we often return to our previous way of life. We put the noose of busyness around our neck and start running the race to nowhere.
If we would remove ourselves from the busyness of today we might get a good view of what is really important. If we take our minds captive and intentionally feed them we might be able to rise above the consistent feed of personal and commercial marketing. We might find morsels of information that lead us to knowledge. We might learn how to enjoy the purr of a cat or the quiet of a library versus the sound of shopping carts and site of people bent on spending money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need.
That which seems trivial might be the most important and we are missing it because we have convinced ourselves that what is important is what everyone else thinks is important. Being busy, doing, and buying lots of stuff. McKeown states later in his book of an employee, “He was so busy in the company he didn’t take time to decide whether he should be at the company.” Right. The distraction of busyness is keeping us from deciding whether we should be doing a lot of things and keeping us from seeing what is truly essential to us living a great life.