The Wonderful Art Of Doing Nothing

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. TC mark

image – Shutterstock  


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  • mskatykins

    Ah, Sundays where things are closed, welcome to my world! It takes a while to get used to the culture shock but once you learn to appreciate it, it can be really great! :)

  • http://fudas do1

    Yes! This is probably the greatest article I’ve read on here, I’m 22 as well so I’m finding it pretty easy to relate.

  • nishantjn

    Wonderful! This is actually inspiring in a ridiculous way! Ridiculous because typically one shouldn’t/needn’t be inspired to do nothing. But great! :D

  • Ana Lavinia (@Lavinia_Vanilia)

    I have discovered the beauty of this art quite recently, after way too many years of working 12 hours a day. When looking back, I realize nothing happened to me during all those years. But now, I can tell stories about how I saw seasons changing one afternoon, when passing by a maple tree on a quiet street in Toronto or about how sun light was falling down in orange waves over an old building in Rome or about how wonderful silence sounds on an empty beach in Spain. I might have missed some years, but at least I didn’t waste a life. It is never too late to start looking at things slowly.

  • raymondthimmes

    too pretentious, couldn’t finish reading.

  • Diana Elena

    During the past 2 years I’ve been going through a lack of arousal. It’s an increasing feeling that’s been sucking life out of me. I’ve always thought that filling the day with activities is the answer to this dullness, but no matter how busy I get, I feel nothing. I am currently looking forward appreciation of simplicity, but… is it that easy? really?

  • Marc

    It must be nice to afford to be able to do nothing all the time.

  • Camille

    It must be nice to afford to be able to do nothing in Paris all the time; a city with one of the highest costs of living in the world. (Statistically speaking and speaking from my own experience of having lived there until very recently).

    • na

      Ah yes, as do I wish I could afford to do nothing in Paris

  • Mumblecore Is Better than Jean Renoir

    Everything in Thought Catalog has a secret under-layer: it’s like Town & Country magazine! It’s filled with fantasies of being rich and indolent and eating a fig. Maybe this newest generation of hipsters is less ashamed than the last one of its privilege and will be just flat-out Reaganesque worshipful of shekels. The other annoying thing, seemingly, about this generation of 25-and-unders (at least as recorded in Thought Catalog, Lena Dunham interviews and other memoranda) is how hardwired the ideology of “Believe in YOURSELF, love your SELF, your SELF YOUR SELF” is. Oprah-ism is their secret Derrida. “SELF-help” books are their deconstruction or Howard Zinn. BARFYTIME!

    • H-MAY


  • Pie

    When you truly do nothing, you sit, you don’t move, you just look at something, and space out … and just float in your mind … random things happen, try it, just it is really slow.

  • Ana

    I loved the article, and it’s hard for me to ever finish reading any article here, but anyways, before I thought about leaving a comment I was looking through the comments of the other readers and something that I found in common is how it seems that the majority of the people can’t just stop and do nothing. Maybe because this “let’s sit in the park and do nothing” idea seems to be too bohemian, not everyone is able to afford it, but it’s just an idea, it doesn’t cost anything. I believe that the true colors of this looking down on the idea attitude comes from a place of not being able to break away from the chains of routine.
    To do nothing one doesn’t have to be able to afford a trip to Paris or even have a very large bank account, but he should be able to just take a deep breath and for a few moments forget about problems and just his mind be filled with peace.

  • FEOE

    IM 24 & I LUV YOU.

  • Mitzy (@mitzyredmango)

    Finally, someone who understand the meaning of just doing nothing and the benefit we get from it. In this fast-paced society, it’s something that we take for granted, and then we wonder how life is so messed up. Though I’m not exactly saying that this is the answer to all problems. :)

  • Jeann

    I mastered doing nothing while in uni; and now that I have a job – i dream of days where i can just be myself in my apartment, in the heat and listen to pretentious indie or hippie music all day long!
    thank you for reminding me about those glory days! :)

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on sugar honey iced tea.

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