Monday, May 08, 2006

Doing nothing can be productive

In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.
- Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

The philosopher was not suggesting that we avoid learning any more than he would suggest that we stop eating if we were overweight.

We eat to give ourselves the energy with which to conduct our daily lives, to do the things that need to be done. True, to build muscles we need to eat special foods, notably those that are rich in proteins. But eating huge amounts of food will not give us huge amounts of energy or make us unusually strong.

Yet to stop eating entirely for the purpose of losing weight is counterproductive as well, as it robs our bodies of essential nutrients that they can't get from stored energy (fat) or muscle.

To contemplate means to do nothing physical, instead to exercise the brain to consider what we are, where are are in our lives, what makes things happen around us, what is harmful and what helpful and for whom, how we can reach our goals, and so on.

To others, our contemplation would be considered to be "doing nothing." Who cares?

If we are always busy with matters that involve use of our muscles or our brains toward goals that are external to us, it's like overeating to achieve additional energy.

Sometimes we need to stop and do nothing. Just think. Not to feel sorry for ourselves by lavishing ourselves with self pity. But to think about where we are going, where we would like to go and how we can get there.

We don't accomplish much in life by following directions from someone else all the time.

We need to set out own goals and chart a course to reach them. That requires time to think. And plan. Then to rethink and adjust our plans until they are realistic and achievable.

If you don't know where you want to go in life, for sure you will never get where you might have wanted to go.

And when you reach your goals, you need to set new goals. What those new goals will be will depend on your life objectives. They will require you to spend time doing nothing. Just thinking about them. And resting your brain between bouts of thinking.

Doing nothing can be productive.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage you to give your brain both exercise and "down time" to recover.
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