Work Less, Contemplate More
One of my favorite activities to witness is actually, wait for it… inactivity! Walking by someone sitting on a park bench, gazing wistfully into infinity, an indescribable peace cast over their face infuses me with pleasure like little else. I think I may come by this naturally. No one who intimately knows me has ever said, “She works so hard” or “Micah really knows how to toil.”
Despite the fact that my family of blue collar Scots-Irish and Spanish descendants have strong work ethic, I never really believed in hard work. I am not speaking of physical labor, which I do like and find necessary. I am talking about climbing to some illusory top where the money is better, the power, the imagined freedom, or some such driving ambition reigns. I have never been interested, but show me a person who can sit still with nary a book or, goddess forbid, cell phone and I will fall immediately in love.
My neighbors can attest to the fact that they often see me staring into oblivion for minutes turned hours, getting absolutely nothing done by today’s definition of doing. Once my boyfriend asked how I had spent the day and I said, “Mostly staring at the walls from various vantage points in my home,” which made him laugh, he thinking I probably should not admit it, kind of like some people pretend they have not just woken from a nap.
It is a lost and most essential art — contemplation, contemplative practice. Modern humans are moving so fast we no longer lose ourselves in the rapture of reflection, the posing of questions to the universe without the desire or expectation of a response. And we assume only retired people are privy to that inactivity. It is such delicious space for me to float through and although I have no empirical proof, I believe our lack of it could be to blame for much of our civilizational malaise, and even idiocy.
The 17th Century French philosopher, Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I cannot imagine what he would say of the level of distraction we now inhabit. Sorry, Blaise, I’ve got to take this call, respond to a text, pose for a selfie to post on my profile page, yeah uh-huh, go ahead, I’m listening. Or maybe Blaise spent so much time in his room alone he would not have directly encountered the frenetic pulse of life today. All I can say is he picked a good century to die in if he was concerned with our inability to contemplate.
Contemplative practice is different from meditation and equally important. I do both daily. Spring is an exquisite time for contemplation — the senses swirling back and forth between ecstatic scents and sights, weaving our more inherent wisdom and truths into the present moment, naturally fluid when we still our bodies and allow the world to breathe us into being-ness. So, the next time you hear your inner voice tell you about how you are not getting enough done, accomplishing anything, drive it truly crazy and take a seat somewhere beautiful. Enjoy!