Have the Courage to Do Nothing
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
"Have the courage to do nothing."
You made me repeat this. I mumbled it the first time so you made me say it again. I laughed after I said it the second time. God it felt weird. I was in the middle of choosing between programs and making things sound nice on my resume and your advice was ‘do nothing.' This is terrible advice. You said I would say that. You also said I wouldn’t understand. Well, I don’t. You said in 10 years I would. But I don’t want to wait nine more years. Then you said something about a sense of urgency in a way that sounded like I shouldn’t have one. Maybe you were right. But at least it’s easier to understand --- we have limited time here and I could die tomorrow and all that. I can wrap my head around the sense of urgency. But what in the world does ‘doing nothing’ mean? And how do you do it? Lying on a couch is still lying on a couch. So how? And how do I trust it if I don't even understand it?
I know I trust you. Which is the only reason why I’m going back to what you said now.
I wanted to ask you what you meant. But I didn’t. Partly because I thought you’d say something along the lines of me being too young and partly because I liked the idea of having an aha moment after especially vague advice. Except it was followed by a confused head nod and a ‘see you in a month’, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sorry, I know I should have showed up --- I know trust is important. If I asked you why I should trust your advice even if I don’t understand it, you would say something along the lines of how we don’t understand life but we still make the choice to wake up and not kill ourselves the next day. You said the only way you knew how to not kill yourself was to write. And you didn’t say this to be dramatic, but because the choice was always so clear --- write or die. It was simple. Simple but not easy. You emphasized that part. The part where you met your friends at the bar and they were all engineers, lawyers and accountants and you were still working on that novel. The part where you couldn’t relate. You said ‘it can often seem like a lonely journey, but it is not.’ Simple, but not easy. Just like ‘doing nothing.' Don’t get me wrong, I still have no idea what that means. And I don’t think I will for a long time. Although, hopefully sooner than in ten years. But I know that when I think of what it means to ‘have the courage to do nothing’, I feel the same way I felt when I walked out of the office that day --- confused, but light. Like maybe it’s okay to have more questions than answers. I also think of Vienna by Billy Joel. By that I mean it starts playing in my head. Particularly the ‘slow down, you crazy child…’ part. And then, ironically enough, I find a piece of paper or a laptop like I did right now and I start to write.
I don’t know if this is some weird Reverse Psychology stuff you’re trying on me. Viktor Frankl came up with this term called ‘Paradoxical Intention’ where you tell yourself to do the opposite in order to get something done. But when I asked you if you read his book you laughed and said you’d never read anything titled ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’. I guess it was funny for you because it was so obvious that you derived all your meaning from writing. I wish I had that clarity. It is a good book though. Probably my favourite. Anyway, the point is, I still don’t know what ‘doing nothing’ means, no matter how many times I repeat it. So I’m not saying I understand. And I still think it’s terrible advice. But I am writing. Almost every day. So for now I’m saying thank you.
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