According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word busy is defined as “having a great deal to do”. Time is a race everyone is losing. People’s Monday-to-Sunday plans are adumbrated way in advance. The plausibility to make off-the-cuff ones are even lesser. I have little patience for the perpetually busy — people who have time-tables. Our minds are not getting a break. Think. Work. Execute. We’re on autopilot. Working hard to become more useful, applied human beings. The competition is inescapable. Everyone’s expectations become our own, unknowingly.
We keep ourselves busy to overcome a failed relationship or when we’ve lost in love. We take art classes or practice yoga to find peace. Oftentimes, we ignore the sinking feeling, and distractify! (Sometimes I get weird dreams about exactly those things I’m trying to not think about) We follow schedules, where every minute of every day is planned, dissected and put on a platter.
I always thought I belonged to the other side – the not-so-busy side. Most part of my weekends would be spent lazily watching Romedy Now or overthinking every aspect of my life. It can be exhausting and extremely toxic. On certain days, when I’m overwhelmed by incorrigible thoughts that lose their way, undone by an inability to mentally compartmentalize, my mind is like the Rubik’s Cube trying to move and layer thoughts by itself so as to fall perfectly. But they never do. No matter how hard I try. Nothing makes sense. And it shouldn’t. Imagine the boredom of the mind, then.
I don’t like to be busy. I don’t like to make the effort of constantly keeping busy. I’m not markedly sleep-deprived because I spent too much time being busy. I like to waste time. Wasting time is not something a lot of us do. Sometimes I feel so lazy to get out of my house, I lie. But today, I didn’t. Today I’m genuinely caught up. My friend Sunaina asked me to catch a movie with her, and unwillingly I had to decline, because I had to write this piece about everyone being busy. Oh, the irony.
If you’ve read The Lotus Easter by W. Somerset Maugham, you’ll know it isn’t formidable to be idle. The protagonist Wilson gave up his high paying job in London to go live on an island in Italy, to just be idle and live a life which flies in the face of society’s assembly-line views on work. Bereft of any fulfillment of expectations, but his own, Wilson’s plan was to kill himself once he ran out of money. Though a failed suicide attempt botched his plans, he lived his life on his own terms nevertheless. It would be Utopian to think we could all do that today, of course. But a thought never killed anybody. The idea though, of being a lotus-eater, is far too tempting – to really just indulge in all the luxuries and abstain from any kind of real-life issues. Y’know like when you’re probably smoking some?
Remember that thing I mentioned before about being on autopilot — should we be sad that we sometimes don’t spend enough time trying to deal with our feelings? Or should we indulge so much in it that it becomes arduous to get out of? It could be melancholy or otherwise. Possibly listen to The Shins on loop, associate our lives with it and while away our four score and ten in despair? Sounds tempting, but alas the “real world”, in which being idle could be everything that dangerous is. When we’re busy, we’re part of a system. Mondays are a bitch, we’re expected to be punctual beings, deliver at work, not be idle and at the end of it just get by. This schedule is too dangerous to be disrupted. Even if you’re thinking out of the box and doing things nobody’s done before, the underlying schedule will more or less be the same. Does that make us mere, easily manipulated mortals? That’s a sad thought now, isn’t it.
I don’t intend to say that over achievers in the corporate world are stupid, but that is one way of looking at things. One task ends, and another begins. One thought ends and another begins. Should be we working to live or living to work?
I still sleep 12 hours a day whenever I can, a habit I’m most certainly driven to not let go of. The other side of the spectrum has people believing sleeping is a waste of time. And then there are the in-betweeners. Essentially, we all sleep and all work, irrespective of the time allotted.
We snooze our alarms fifteen times every morning and eventually make it to work. We’re conditioned to going to school, then college, then work. Many try and find some “leisure time” — pursue a hobby or a sport. But we‘re afraid to be idle. When we’ve been idle for too long, something at the back of our minds tells us we’re wasting time. Oh, the guilt! It would be fair to note at this point that leisure and idleness are nonequivalent. Leisure can be expensive, being idle isn’t.
At this organization I was working for last year, some employees are expected to work from home right after they reach home, after a regular routine of slogging nine hours at the office. Then they are expected to work on weekends, and once in a while there’s free alcohol at work, not because the employer cares, but mostly because they want to make sure everybody’s enslaved.
We could be doing all we wanted, as we liked, but then there is this thing called money, which is expensive. We’re all pressed for time. Sometimes we can’t sit idle and enjoy the rain on a sunny afternoon, because we’ve to get back to work after lunch. Sometimes we can’t stare at a small carving on our ceiling for hours together and be lost in the most unreal thoughts because we’ve to wake up the next morning and make it to work on time. Sometimes we can’t enjoy a cigarette whenever we feel like — there are smoke breaks for that. Everything runs on a clock. Everything translates to the language of money. And we can’t deny that we need it to survive.
We could, by all means, follow Wilson’s plan and be lotus-eaters if we had the intrepidity to. Or we could be like the over-achieving Harry in the corner cubicle everyone’s striving to be.
While schedules, to a certain extent, are something we can’t change, what we can do is pretend to not be busy. Fake it till you make it, y’know?
A good way of cutting down on time spent being “busy” is to categorize things as necessary and unnecessary, which can further be acted upon after evaluating the consequences. If it’s worth the risk, then we should have more time to be idle than we think, if that is what our end game is. We can take the chance of living more blithely and not bemoan our busy lives. Afterall, it’s one long fucking life.