Many articles have recently been published on the plague of being busy, on our self inflicted and horrific schedules, on the self worth people find in the implicit importance of always having too much to do. This is blamed on the rise of internet-caused narcissim, on the loss of religion and the associated meaning it gives to life, on the rise of the individual’s need to be unique and important. We’re told to slow down, learn to relax, find space in silence, all by experts who are, themselves, busy speakers, writers, physicians, analysts and bloggers, looking to bump their own social networking profiles and wrapped in their own cult of importance that comes from never having time. After all, if your time is scarce, that must mean that it is valuable and precious.
I spent a week in Joras, sitting on a bench that was built of mud and a part of the foundation of the house. There were no other chairs. I sat there, under the eaves on the front porch, and watched as life passed in front of the hedge flanked garden gate. People would wander by, herding children or stopping to gossip with my host mother. One of the two trucks that connect the village to the outside world might slosh past, wheels spinning and chased by boys giggling as the drivers throttled the engines and coaxed the four wheel beasts through sticky mud. Often though, there would be nothing. A hen might carefully pick its way past, going to locations unknown both to me and the chicken. A pig, its Y-stick carefully tied into place, would wander along the road, appearing around the edge of one bush and disappearing behind the next, and I would sit there, perhaps with a cup of hugely sweetened tea, perhaps not. I sat and watched and thought. I didn’t think of anything in particular. I was not meditating or trying to have epiphanies. I was just sitting. It takes some practice to just sit, and of practice, I need a lot.