Sunday, 4 May 2014
Idleness, contemplation & the machine
When I draw, I feel I should be reading, when I read, I feel I should be cooking, when I cook, I feel I should be tidying up. We should do something productive all the time. If you are productive you are good, if you are not, you are a sloth, and you'll pay for the consequences with guilt and less real happiness. Because happiness comes from being productive. Do you sense that there is something wrong here? Who taught us all of this? And when? "Work ennobles" evokes some dark memories. Something has gone wrong, perhaps from the industrial revolution onwards. I am not sure. But we talk of ourselves as if we were machines, we talk about being wired up wrong, needing to reprogramme ourselves, change software, recharge our batteries. In this desperate need for productivity, we've also tried to suppress, eradicate or redefine a lot of feelings, emotions and nuances. Melancholy doesn't exist anymore, sadness has been replaced by depression, with its diseased, malfunctioning machine connotations, definitely something to eradicate. Because the only acceptable feeling is happiness. You must strive for happiness at all costs. But not just any happiness, only the real one, the one that comes from hard work and success. The happiness that comes from a walk on the beach is no good. And what happened to reverie, contemplation, boredom? The machine should never be bored and should never be idle. So, instead of daydreaming, we text, watch videos, play games, read and write on our social platforms. There is no boredom to prompt us to look deeper, there is no search for meaning. That would be idle, and might lead to melancholy. Perhaps, if we went for a stroll in the woods, sat on the beach staring at the sea, lied on the grass counting fluffy clouds, perhaps if we did all this, we would shatter into a thousand tiny pieces. Before this madness of man machine productivity, contemplation was seen as one of the most spiritual pursuits. Reverie is as important as work in a balanced life. Try to do something new today: do nothing. And see what happens. You might be surprised.