I’ve kind of just been floating around the world since I left college, working small jobs and doing a lot of writing. I haven’t been that busy. A lot of constructive thoughts and ideas have come out of this space, and most of them will be recorded before I leave Paris.
But today I want to talk about just one of them: the art of doing nothing.
I’m not talking about the introspective, intellectual, writing-in-your-moleskin kind of nothing. Or the party kind of nothing, with lots of people horsing around. I’m not even talking about the kind of nothing where you decide to watch the whole season of 24 in a single marathon. No, those are all somethings.
I’m talking about the rural French village on a Sunday kind of nothing. These are the periods in which everything closed, and your entire universe revolves around those three poufs in your living room. It’s the kind of nothing where you just sit there, you just chill, down to the very core of your being. For the master of doing nothing, making lunch or a pot of the tea is a herculean effort, the adventure of the day. Sometimes it proves too much, and all he can muster is a baguette with some cheese on it.
In throes of nothing, commitments end at the 20-second horizon line. It could almost be called pure spontaneity, except any action you undertake requires such little use of the neocortex that it can hardly be called an activity. All you care about in this world is the music that’s playing, a little bit of gossip, and the lazy conversation that circulates.
It took me 22 years to figure out how awesome this is. How great the connections you can build are. To do nothing is to become vulnerable to someone. It is to cease to try and control the direction of the conversation, to let it float into the unknown territories of your soul and see what happens. When you do nothing with someone, you can start to understand who they really are.
To do nothing is also a vote of confidence in your self. It is the belief that you will be able to stop doing nothing, to re-engage the gear. It is the moment where you say that your affairs are in good enough order that they can be forgotten for a while.
Nothing is a large part of what I do in Paris, and I cherish it. Sometimes I just go sit at the park, watching the people stroll by. I remove myself from the world, I become a passive observer for a few moments, kind of like when you get killed in Counter-Strike. I make up stories in my head about the people passing by, let music wash over me, or just savor the silent love of the friends or family sitting next to me. In nothing, creativity flourishes. In nothing, simplicity survives.
To my ex-girlfriends: I really sucked at doing nothing, and I know how much that changed our dynamic. How much less vulnerable it made me. Sorry.
To my college friends: Next time we hang out, let’s stop talking about building companies and just build nothing. I’m looking forward to what we find.