People are told to just “go with the flow.”
Instead, they start swimming. Whether fighting the current or paddling with it, they have missed the point.
Doing absolutely nothing is, in fact, doing quite a lot.
Going Nowhere To Get Somewhere
A decade ago, access to knowledge, ease of travel and the speed communication made us feel very rich. Now it seems as though we’re moving so fast, so often in the wrong direction. Now, it feels like the opportunity to do nothing, to go nowhere or be still is the greatest prize.
A friend recently said to me, “I’m in a rut. I’m stuck.” Later, thinking back on our conversation, I realized that she was wrong. I understood what she meant but the way she expressed it was actually very shallow. Being “stuck” is in fact a very good thing. If you can accept it, rather than fight it, it’s a fantastic opportunity to regain some perspective; to view at a distance the way things really are.
I didn’t call her back about my second thoughts and I would never call her shallow. She’s a strong swimmer. In the future, however, I would correct anyone who likens a desperate situation to a standstill and a standstill as lacking opportunity. I’d say, “just go with it.”
People want to call themselves stuck, but if they’re truly motionless, immobile and that far removed from the pace of modern life, it’s hard to believe they can’t relax there, even for a minute. They can’t because they’re stuck on being stuck. And they are convinced that is a very bad thing.
Pico Iyer wrote,
So much of our own lives takes place in our heads – in memory or imagination, in speculation of interpretation- that something I feel I can best change my life by changing the way I look at it… It’s the perspective we choose, not the places we visit, that ultimately tell us where we stand.
Somehow, we must repair our methods of traveling. We sink or swim but we are always moving. Swept along or under, we’re at the mercy of more powerful forces. There isn’t anything wrong with paddling upstream. Often, we must convert the course of our lives or seek new direction. But we appreciate where we’re headed only if we’re first happy with where we are. We must pause, lay back, notice- and float.
In stillness we’re able to process the movement around us. Taking rest, we can consider our choices instead of splashing through them. Accepting there is no such thing as being stuck, and that our lives are constantly taking us for a ride, we’ll begin to appreciate the chance to drift, sit back, relax and enjoy it.
Perhaps we’ll get somewhere because of it.
Doing Nothing, Together
A few weeks ago, I was channel surfing in Central America and I found the movie, This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. I’d read the book and it was good. So why not watch the movie? After all, there are many sides to a story.
A father passes away and a family is brought together to honor his final wishes of sitting shiva. For seven days, four grown siblings and their mother gathered back home to mourn the loss in a variety of ways. Sitting shiva is a Jewish tradition and the catalyst for this story. There was action on the side, parallel narratives of characters’ individual lives but above all, sitting still was the greatest challenge for everyone.
We grow up, we move out and pursue our lives in separate ways, often far away from parents, brothers and sisters. This Is Where I Leave You makes a comedy of the difficulties in being under one roof together, doing nothing. It’s a consideration on how hard it is to just be – among others, sitting still – for a long time.
People can be very unwelcoming to the company of others. They may say it’s distracting. They crave their “alone time” and feel entitled to it. But if they’re truly overwhelmed by the presence of others, it’s hard to imagine they understand true love without attachment. Some have love but need space. Some feel lonely and want love…to fill the space.
Pico Iyer wrote,
Heaven is the place where you think of nowhere else.
With a sense of detachment we can better understand our connections with others. We are very attached to our everyday people- children, spouses, colleagues, neighbors. There’s no need to abandon anyone important in order to appreciate other company. Instead, we must value the time we have with them for what it is. Even if it means abandoning the motions of our everyday lives.
After a certain point (in the movie and the book and) in life, there’s a bridge to cross. It’s the turning point of the story. On the other side, boredom gets left behind, the battlefield forgotten. Suddenly everyone silently agrees to get along. They’ve acknowledged that “they’re stuck together.” Doing nothing, together, has great potential. People get creative. They collaborate. They let go of attachment and acknowledge their connections.
Perhaps we do nothing better when we’re together.