Do Nothing

I take Fridays off. For most of the day, I do nothing. As in, nothing scheduled, nothing on a list. I do what I want, which is, oftentimes, a lot of nothing.

A few months back I bookmarked this beautiful, long, rambling, connect-the-dots essay by Jenny Odell. I have read it several times, as she moves from the setting of the Oakland rose garden through Deep Listening retreats and the residential crows outside her window, to this passage citing Franco Berardi, author of After the Future.

Berardi, she writes, “ties the defeat of labor movements in the 1980s to rise of the idea that we should all be entrepreneurs. In the past, he notes, economic risk was the business of the capitalist, the investor. Today though, “‘we are all capitalist’ … and therefore, we all have to take risks. … The essential idea is that we should all consider life as an economic venture, as a race where there are winners and losers.”

Odell goes on to add:

“In a situation where every waking moment has become pertinent to our making a living, and when we submit even our leisure for numerical evaluation via likes on Facebook and Instagram, constantly checking on its performance like one checks a stock, monitoring the ongoing development of our personal brand, time becomes an economic resource that we can no longer justify spending on “nothing.” It provides no return on investment; it is simply too expensive.”

It’s getting harder, isn’t it, to allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing, or, to put it another way, to be unproductive with our hours. To be idle is to be suspect. But I’m reminded of Tom Hodgkinson, who literally wrote the book on how to be idle, and later, in his Freedom Manifesto, went on to offer this bit of advice he received from the artist Joe Rush:

“Joe’s notion is that we are all born with a gift, and that it is up to us to find that gift, and then explore it. (…) And how do you find your vocation, your gift? The answer is simply to do nothing for as long as you possibly can.”

Very subversive. It’s Friday. I’m in.

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