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The Art of Doing Nothing

Adam Curtis, dare I paraphrase him, once said that the most radically expressive thing an individual could do is leave their house, turn right, walk right across Europe in the line they had drawn on their map to Aleppo, get there and don’t tell anyone and don’t write a book about it and don’t tweet about it.     

In this digital age, image is everything. Today, looking as if you have something is more important than possessing that thing or even worse, in my opinion, working towards that thing. We are now more than ever locked in this world of the face, vain and vacuous. Insert something about the cast of Love Island inanely trampling over Chomsky as they rush for a streetwear fad sponsorship.

More so than ever during lockdown are we seeing ourselves further draining into the tubes of this allegorical matrix for work, lectures, zoom-drinks, perpetual quizzing, and there is little we can do about it. 

Of course, this is not our fault. Rather, it is now a survival instinct, an adaption and, in this writer’s humble opinion, the horizon of something new and strange. At the same time, we are expected to be increasingly reachable, connected and productive despite the fact that nothing has really changed that much. The pressure to be omnipresent online has reached a new unforgiving peak. If you aren’t posting, sharing, going-live, you don’t exist. If you aren’t expressing yourself like everyone else (differently of course, I’m sure), then you don’t matter. But what matters? Is it your image, your output, your Instagram? Or, is it what makes you happy, living authentically, finding your essence? Of course, an obvious rebuttal may be that these two ideas are related, even symbiotic. However, I propose that the latter idea of living authentically is preferable. This is why it is so important today to put down your phone and, in the words of Jenny Odell, resist the attention economy. 

One way in which I would encourage the reader to do this is, is by learning to do nothing. Not only is this a way to escape the trivial noise of todays, well, noise, learning to do nothing teaches us about how we value our time and what makes us happy amongst other things. Robert Owen’s slogan ‘Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours sleep’ was an early criticism of the unsustainable slots we operate in. Artificially cramming your ‘free’ time into a period is absurd. If we move away from the traditional notions of productivity, then we can learn from the act of doing nothing. We can reflect, rather than ‘spending’ our time, we can simply enjoy it, relax, recharge, prioritise, focus on ourselves and what matters to us as individuals. 

Taking the steps to temporarily remove yourself from our frenetic society is important, nay vital. Learning how to do nothing, especially in lockdown, is the best action you can take/not take. So, when you can, take a seat far from the Discord and simply, do nothing. I would hope you find it to be time well spent. 

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