Resonant quotes on busyness

Tim Kreider wrote an op-ed for this week's Sunday New York Times, and some of his quotes have stuck with me:

"If you live in America in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are.  It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing."

"They're busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they're addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."

"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration--it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

I think of this as I exist in the summer faculty schedule.  There is actually work to be done, but not as much as during the school year.  I'm eager--eager!--to move forward with my book project, but I'm finding that slowing down--having the occasional second breakfast with Biffle, lunch with Trey, coffee with Claire or Cindi--is giving me some space that is going to help my thinking be clearer, brighter, more relevant.

We're going on a series of trips soon, and I hope that those, too, will be real vacation spaces, time when I can face the absence of busyness and see what happens.


Elizabeth said...

I think my first surrender into the opposite of "busyness" came years ago after years of taking care of Sophie in such grueling ways. It felt like a reward for that care. Now, seventeen years later, I know that it's probably the proper way to live and that Sophie has taught me that.

mary said...

aaron and i have had countless conversations about this idea of busyness as a necessity in our culture. (something we are both actively working against). it seems that we are faced with criticism and judgement when people find out that we are making time to not be busy. our "leisurely activities" are openly deemed as unimportant and scoffed at by peers and friends which i find rather frustrating.
we function with better quality when we are not busy and i love it!

Alison said...

Love to Sophie. It's so cool to get such gifts from children.

And Mary, I can tell that you and Aaron are thinking carefully about how to balance the various elements in your lives. You're both such hard workers, but I get that you've had life experiences (like Elizabeth) that have made you value leisure.