Do nothing and prosper

Finding time to do anything to an appropriate standard seems to get more difficult as time passes. Much more common for me these days is the sensation that actions and reactions, whether mine or those of others, are half-planned, half-arsed, half-baked, half-cocked, half- asleep or half-hearted. Giving anything the full bhoona seems increasingly out of the question. Things, on the whole, are done for the sake of efficiency rather than posterity.

You don’t despair. You do your best, but always with the caveat that it’s your best under the circumstances. And circumstance, as with readiness, is all. Watch a snooker exhibition and this is self-evident. Players knock the ball around left, right and centre, never missing, doing outrageous things with their cue to the joy of the gasping audience. 

In competition everything changes – the cue all but rips through the surface of the table, sabotaging the kind of shots even a one-armed 12 year old could handle. It’s not the player, mind you, it’s the circumstance.

Of all the things I regret having no time to do to a standard, SFA ranks fairly highly. I’ve never been someone who fears doing nothing, although several people I know find the very concept unsettling. They think doing nothing is the same as not doing anything, which it most definitely isn’t. Doing nothing is an active endeavour, albeit one that places a premium on inaction.

In my view, doing nothing should never be sniffed at, not least because it’s so difficult to do with aplomb. To really do nothing you have to unplug everything that’s plugged in, disconnect yourself entirely from your loved ones, acquaintances and mortal enemies. 

When reminders pop into your head – urging you to defrost the fish or clean the loo, say – you have to swat them away like flies. Much better you stamp on your watch and set all your clocks to midnight. Time doesn’t fly when you’re actively doing nothing, which is surely ample reason to indulge.

Depending on your beliefs, we all come from nothing and will return to nothing sooner or later (in the context of infin- ity it’s invariably sooner, and it’s never a question of “if”). Life is but a small break, a chance to stretch your legs, a hiatus in which you run about in Converse and confusion, causing drama, loving as best you can, making your way. 

This shouldn’t stop anyone from dipping their toes back into nothingness from time to time. As a species we tend to get excited and kick the pram, get

high and kick the habit, get down and kick the bucket, all the while dodging and dealing with a barrage of ever greater obstacles. It’s like an assault course – or a gym hall, more precisely: life is a martial arts bout that ends when one of its many adversaries flips you to the floor. The game has been rigged so that nothing will win, and in the long run you will win nothing.

Those of a religious bent might favour the idea of some kind of consciousness after their coil is sprung. I don’t. I think consciousness is part of the brain, and that the brain, in time, will be nothing. How much better then to enjoy doing nothing right now, whenever possible, with your consciousness still fully intact?

That thing hurtling towards you at 60 minutes an hour is nothing – best make time for it while you can. It’s definitely nothing to worry about.


First published on Herald Scotland.