Human nature fascinates me. I have only my own to go by with any degree of accuracy, and that which I can extrapolate from the actions of others. But I’ve never quite understood the optimism with which, having attempted to do something fifteen times and failed, I (we) are under the illusion that exactly the same thing done exactly the same way a sixteenth time will work.
On my way to “work,” I decided to stop at Panera’s, a coffee shop I almost never visit unless I’m with someone, to have a cup of coffee and a small pumpkin muffin the coffee shop insists on calling a “muffie”…an appellation just so cloyingly “cute” that I try never to ask for one by name, merely pointing and saying “One of those.” As always, the place was full of couples and singles, many of them working on their laptops, and all apparently having a very pleasant, relaxing time. I didn’t want to take out my own laptop, which I had with me, since I knew I’d not be there all that long, and decided to pretend I was just like all the others seated quietly and contentedly with their coffee.
The fact that, though I have an average of two to three cups of coffee a day, I never finish them and really am not, if truth be told, all that wild about coffee to begin with, is another matter entirely. Do I really think, the next time I have a cup of coffee, that I am actually going to finish it and truly savor the deliciousness of every sip? No matter. Everyone else seems to enjoy it, so I just go along with it.
I have never done sitting quietly and contentedly very well, so what made me even remotely think I could do it this time is a mystery. So I sat there, slathering little tubs of butter onto my…one of those…and sipping my coffee while really, really trying to be relaxed and comfortable. What’s wrong with me that I can’t do it? I looked around me. There were maybe six or eight other people sitting alone, minding their own business, taking their own time, apparently without a care in the world. What were they doing? Surely they had to be thinking of something. They couldn’t just sit there, thinking and doing nothing at all, could they? Then why did it appear that that was exactly what they were doing? Was nobody home behind the windows of their eyes?
I’m sure anyone looking through my own little hazel-colored “windows” would see ten thousand thoughts and ideas and things-I-should-be-doing-
rather-than-just-sitting- theres bustling around, bumping into one another. Thoughts are as fleeting as smoke: if you don’t capture them and put them into words they become harder and harder to remember, and nine out of ten of them are gone forever, or trampled beneath a stampede of the thoughts that come directly behind them.
Obviously, my inability to sit still, to breath deeply and slowly, and float calmly along the surface of time is some sort of character weakness. I know I am undoubtedly missing out on the wonders of silent contemplation and meditation: Buddhists dedicate their lives to it. I would go stark raving mad. And I wish I could say that I envy people who can find deep fulfillment in doing nothing, but I honestly cannot. There’ll be plenty of time for doing nothing when I’m dead. I don’t need practice in it while I’m still alive.
There’s an ad running for an ocean cruise line which outlines all the wonderful things one can do aboard their ships, and it sounds great, until they add, as part of their list: “Or just do nothing at all.”
Nothing at all? I’m going to pay several thousand dollars to do nothing at all? What’s wrong with this picture? If they want to do nothing at all, let them stay home. Or better still, have them come have a quiet cup of coffee at Panera’s.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: