A wise man of my acquaintance once said that sometimes, doing nothing is the most subversive thing you can do. At the time I wanted to argue, because I was all keyed up for action and doing, wanting to take on the world and change everything. But he was having none of it, which made for a very one sided conversation. That’s perhaps a hazard when talking to people who have it all figured out, and who know how simple the answers are.
By this, he did not mean ignore the state of the world, watch television, drink beer and let your brain turn to cheese. Those all count as doing something. Nothing is a far more precise activity. One of its key features is that it neither uses nor consumes.
Our whole system is built around use and consumption. They underpin all of our economic activity. Pretty much every wrong thing I can think or politically, boils down to use and consumption. If we, as a species, could figure out how to consume less, we’d have a fighting chance of not destroying our habitat, and ourselves along with it.
Doing nothing means using no energy – turn off the electric, the gas, the mobile phone and do not get anywhere near the car. You can go further by using as little bodily energy as you can. Sit, or lie down someplace, in the quiet. Look at the sky. Gaze out of the window. Listen to the birds. Don’t even meditate, that would be doing something. Do nothing. Don’t be useful to anyone, don’t seek personal growth or enlightenment. Be still, use nothing. Just be alive for a few moments, and have being alive feel like it’s entirely enough. Because it is.
How much energy would we save if we all undertook to spend ten minutes doing nothing on a daily basis? And how much calmer and more at peace would we be for making the time to just sit, or lie. Not rushing, not trying to be useful, not cogs in the great economic machine or servants of the system. Doing nothing. Try it. Revel in the beautiful subversion that is your own refusal to participate. Let it put all the frantic rushing around into perspective. Move into the slow lane. Why run when you can walk, and enjoy the view?
Try it. We could start a revolution this way. It would be quiet, inoffensive, and radically effective. We could take over the world, by doing nothing, and getting other people to do nothing. Think of the resources we can save, the positive environmental benefit, the challenge to sick government systems based on impossible growth and the constant abuse of our planet.