Perhaps the phenomenal growth of cafés, coffee bars and even the practice of drinking coffee is a symptom of this generation’s need to have spaces to goof off, loaf in and do nothing.
Go to a Barista or a Café Coffee Day or a Starbucks or a Coffee Republic and what you will see is a bunch of people, seeking a few moments of refuge from their busy schedules, where they can do nothing under the guise of drinking coffee!
And yes, that includes the boy behind the laptop screen and the girl reading her book and the man scribbling into his moleskin notebook. They’re doing nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Like you, they’re only there for some peace and quiet.
One of the most ‘shared’ items on Facebook recently — and ironically — was Pico Iyer’s
“The Joy of Quiet” in The New York Times, a soulful plea for stillness and quietude in our modern lives.
Ironic, because it was shared by people on Facebook’s frantic walls, while no doubt they were chatting, listening to music, surfing the net with one eye on the TV screen.
Iyer writes: “The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. ‘Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,’ French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, ‘and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.’ He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Radhikha Sheth, a leading psychotherapist in Mumbai, couldn’t agree more. “It’s the moments between activity, the silence between sound, from where we recharge our souls and nurture our inner selves,” she says. “I see parents who are constantly trying to find new activities and classes to put their kids in, when actually the most important thing they could do for their children is to give them space and time to be still, do nothing and connect with their inner selves.”
Osho and other wise men have often said that it is the “silence between the notes of music wherein the beauty lies.”
But how to achieve this silence, this stillness in a world deeply suspicious of inactivity, of solitude and of stillness?
Look up the synonyms for inactivity and you are get: ‘idleness, indolence, laziness, lifelessness, slothfulness, lethargy, inertia, sluggishness, and torpor’ — words that have definite negative connotations.
I guess the issue here is to ‘be’ in a world that expects us constantly to ‘do’.
Often the whole question remains a no-brainer for those who know a thing or two about creativity, who know that it is only when you can ‘be’ that you can really ‘do’.
What they mean by this is that great works of art, important works of creativity and ideas can only be channeled when people dive deep within themselves and locate the jewels within.
The Buddha travelled far and wide but wisdom only came when he sat still and silent under a tree.
In today’s high-pitched, fast-tracked, multi-dimensional connected world, that is our biggest challenge and simultaneously our primary responsibility to ourselves.
Switch off, unplug, disconnect ought to be our new mantra.
Malavika Sangghvi is a Mumbai-based writer firstname.lastname@example.org