Stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath, and be still. Seriously. Try it right now.
It’s not so easy, is it? Especially not for a guy like me who, like all of us, has been programmed to move constantly — to do, to perform, to accomplish — something, anything. Just get busy, and the busyness (which is eerily similar to the word business) will somehow fulfill our purpose in life.
From an early age we’re told to get out there and make something of ourselves. Get a job. Any job. Just as long as it pays money, don’t be concerned about whether you enjoy it. If you waste your time searching for substance, you’ll end up a loser. Fulfillment is for the weak.
So, off we go, obeying the charge to work hard, play hard, plan, scheme, buy, sell, shuck, jive, whatever, but for the love of everything that is American: Don’t. Ever. Stop.
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I’m confident that this is the definition of insanity, and I’m guilty of selling it to my own kids.
As summer sets in, it has been our parental instinct to start planning an endless string of activities — camps and classes and day trips and play dates — to fill the weeks, days, hours and minutes so that our sweet children won’t be stricken with boredom.
It was our 9-year-old who finally set me straight. “Dad, I really don’t want to travel this year. Can we just stay home and relax.” It turns out she likes hanging out around the house and doing kid things, you know, like playing or rolling in the grass.
So, let the kids be bored. Expose them to some mind-numbing inertia. Establish some silence. Encourage some stillness. Boredom is a powerful virus that has been known to lead to bouts of creativity, fits of exploration, attacks of wonder and turbulent spells of independent thinking. And please, this world needs more kids who can think for themselves!
Sure, the stillness can be scary at first because it’s uncharted territory. But if you get a little bit Zen and martial-artsy and Jedi about it, silence can also be very exciting. It’s in the stillness and quiet that we discover our true selves. And our true selves usually end up being pretty cool.
We’ve all been told to emulate that moss-free, rolling stone. But why? What’s wrong with moss? It’s soft, fuzzy and green. It protects, insulates and absorbs. And it’s alive. I’ll take a living organism over a cold, lifeless, soulless stone, even if it is moving.
To reach freelancer Jim Cosgrove, send email to email@example.com.