Busyness is an important topic for Idle blogs, which has been put off for too long…
‘Keep busy’ someone once advised me, which would have been helpful had the reason for my seeking their advice not been due to doing too much. Now, before anyone who knows me has choked on their cornflakes, I’m not renowned for industriousness; as I’ve said before, writing a book doesn’t appear to be doing much beyond quietly swearing under your breath, and I’ve avoided real work like the moon avoids the sun. It’s no coincidence that my greatest inspiration has been Jerome K Jerome and his Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life, Socrates once said, which someone (probably himself) astutely wrote down before it was forgotten. Coming from someone who was a stonemason, hoplite foot soldier and later a founder of western philosophy, this is possibly a bit rich; much like Madonna advising people not to be ambitious. If you’ve ever seen a bust of Socrates, which might have been a self-portrait as he was skilled with stone, you’ll probably think, ‘there’s a worried man looking like one of those turtles supporting the world while the other three pop off for some lunch’ He has too much on his mind. As we all do. He looks like he could do with a lie down after throwing his western philosophy notes on the fire.
We are all so busy: working, driving, and playing angry birds, all too frequently at the same time. There appears to have been an unconscious internalisation of ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’ without a moment spent on looking at what alternative work options the horned chap might have to offer. Perhaps it’s a hangover from the Victorian era, like geraniums.
Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with being busy. We might pronounce it business, but the world is run on busyness, and the Western world has engineered suspension bridges, flying machines and teas maids rather than sit around and be accused of idleness. The industrial revolution might be boiled down to the fact that too many people didn’t know what to do with their hands.
With an instinctive dislike of work, writers often moan about having a novel to finish, but what’s even more horrifying is finishing one. Working on a novel is like having a mobile shed to potter about in, without the wood shavings, unlabeled paint pots bearing no relation to paint shades in the house and spiders (unless you’re Stephen King). ‘What’s a writer if they aren’t writing anything?’ the little voice whispers as you sit down with the TV to relax, before you give up trying to comprehend Dr. Who, and decide to do something instead. Anything.
But doing nothing is important. Retrenchment is crucial, as a traditional army, of which Socrates would have been familiar, needs time to rest after advancement, so do we. It is a chance to look at the territory conquered, and consider what is next; to lean across large maps and push wooden horses across them with long sticks. Aboriginal people would frustrate earlier settlers they were guiding by sitting down every few miles, when asked as to why, they replied ‘to let our soul catch up.’ Perhaps we could all learn from that without having to first colonise other countries and then die of scurvy. It may not get you out of doing DIY, but next time someone asks why aren’t you doing anything, just say you’re allowing your soul to catch up.
The first Life Assistance Agency novel was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance
and on ebook here –