The Art of Doing Nothing

TweetDeck. Chirp, chirp, chirp.

Texts. Ding, ding, ding.

Phone. ring, ring, ring.

Twitter: Tweet, tweet, tweet.

Facebook/Google+: Update, comment, like, +1.

Flickr, YouTube, Klout, Vimeo, Ted.

Chatter, clatter, conflict, hue and cry.

Blog blahblahblah.

Corporate email: CYA, details, reply all.


You and I will probably go no longer than three minutes between interruptions today- interruptions in our workflow and in our attention spans.

In the time it has taken me to compose these few words, I have received three texts, a Tweetcaster update and a Verizon message reminding me I have 16 available app updates.


I sniff at the precious articles from self-important Baby Boomers droning on about their pride at eschewing Facebook or crowing about their lack of Twitter prowess. These anti-heroes would like us to believe they have found nirvana by keeping it real and staying old school.

I smile when I hear TV haters try and earnestly explain how their lives are so much richer without the mind-numbing screen that turns them into catatonic piles of flesh, the television enducing a stupor that only a book can reverse.

Their self-love at their inability and /or unwillingness to communicate in a fully modern way is a bit hypocritical. I reminded one of these people that it’s very possible to bore someone to death while sharing a beet salad at a neighborhood restaurant, and equally distracting to hear dreadfully painful “me me me” chatter at a bar.

The unsocial among us are too severe in their avoidance of all things tech. But they do have a valid core in their beliefs that I admire.

All of these apps and devices and social nets all going off at one time deprive us of some cognitive function. They do prevent us from having more human interaction. Words in texts are not associated with facial expressions. We can’t always be sure of someone’s true mood in a status update.

When we talk to Siri more than our spouse? That’s a problem.

Much has been written about the devices that rule many of our lives, and how we are losing our ability to think for long periods of time. I believe there is much validity to this theory. When you are interrupted every three minutes by your mobile or laptop, you can’t devote your full brain to something. The act of “deep reading”, focusing only on the Kindle or paper book for a couple of hours and completely soaking up the words is truly becoming a less frequent repast for our gray matter, and I suspect this is to our detriment.

Well. I just received a gmail and  I have 140 new tweets. Should I look? God help me if I miss another crucial update on the Warriors’ Stephan Curry and his chronically tender ankle.

I believe there is a happy medium to combating the noise in our daily lives, and I’m inclined to try it: For a few minutes every day, I’m going to try and do nothing (or to do less of everything). Perhaps I will lose the mp3 player at the gym, and focus solely on the workout. Maybe I will have lunch with the phone at the other end of the house. Maybe Cyndi and I can have a meal together without the phones nestled next to the flatware, as if it’s a required piece of the table setting.

Seems reasonable.

I remember when Micheletti and I want to Sicily a few years ago. We traversed the island for a week+, climbing on ruins, exploring side streets, riding planes, trains and automobiles. It was frantic, frenetic and fun.

It’s what we did the final two days of the journey that is seemingly most memorable. We rented a house in this little village at the top of a hill on Lipari, one of the largest of the Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily. No Internet, no TV, and no phones (mostly). For two days we pretty much sat on a patio and looked down on this small village, decompressing. No phone calls with the girlfriends, no adventures, not much of anything.

It provided time to remember our travels, and to just talk and hang out. The peach vodka and the red wine providing evening refreshment, not to mention the evening’s entertainment: the island of Vulcano to our south, with its the molten craters visible from our high perch.

The art of doing nothing is a lost art. The ability to have a singular focus, to rest the brain, or to engage it completely in one and only one mental pursuit is indeed attractive.

Perhaps bursts of nothingness is a way for us to be better at work, better with our relationships and kids, with possibly better ultimately at everything. It’s a way to go quiet, to calm, to slow the world down for a moment.

Da-ding. My mobile. A Yahoo! alert.What ever could it be?

Maybe I will walk away, and go make a couple of pancakes.







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