This is such a fantastic piece on the phenomenon of being so, so, so, so busy that we all seem to be falling prey to.
The quote that make me read the article is a funny one:
“If your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary.”
While that’s a bit too constrictive a definition of ‘necessary’ for me, the point is well-made and it got me grinning. (If you’re like me, then you wondered immediately if your job was animated in those books. I did find that there’s a cricket called Goldbug who is a reporter for Busytown’s Action Bug News, so, I guess my work falls under this little rule.)
Recently, Charlie and I were talking about the over-schedulization of pretty much everyone, and how fewer and fewer people value making time for sitting in a hammock or hanging out in the living room making a friendship bracelet or just BEING without a plan in any sort of way. And this article really gets into what drives us to be so ‘busy’ and how we create a lot of that on our own.
Further into the piece, this passage was the part that really hit home for me:
Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
I completely agree. I grew up as a latchkey kid myself and I loved those free hours. We made our afternoon snacks, we figured out how to entertain ourselves, we scraped our knees learning to skateboard down our steep driveway, we wrestled and broke fancy vases and then glued them back together and tried to lie about it when Mom got home. Those moments were important. And far more memorable to me than any of the after school activities or classes I took.
Now, as an adult, I try so very hard not to make myself busy for the sake of having plans. My favorite days are always the ones where I end up making fruit salad and reading a little on the porch, or I happen to meet up with a friend who’s free on a whim and we discover a secret park or meet some dogs on a walk or just lay on the grass and chat. Somehow, these little moments always feel like breaking some rule. The Rule of Busy that this article is talking about.
That’s the best part of being alive right? Just doing whatever the hell you want. All of this reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s great quote about why we’re put here on this Earth. So I’ll leave you with that.
“[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around.