Do Nothing: A precious and arduous activity

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Giovanni Cucci, SJ

 Giovanni Cucci, SJ / Issue 2005 / 11 May 2020

The difficulty of being by yourself

A time of enforced rest – such as the period of isolation to cope with the coronavirus pandemic – can also provide a valuable lesson. Many have reflected on the significance of this serious epidemic in this respect. Among the many ideas, we would like to take up one well known in the spiritual tradition: take time simply to do nothing.

You can occupy time, kill, fill or cheat it, perhaps by sitting in front of the TV with a beer and crisps. Or, worse, you can yield to the insidiousness of that vice the new web of discoveries offers with its enormous possibilities and equally devastating consequences.[1] All this is the exact antithesis of “doing nothing.”

Simply being by oneself can be stigmatized as a vice, a form of laziness; at the same time it presents itself as the ideal life situation, free from commitments and tasks. But when you make a conscious decision to do nothing, it becomes both easier and harder. Easier because you don’t need any particular activities or proposals, you simply have to remain silent. Harder because our mind is full of images and thoughts, and it is necessary to detoxify from this enormous build-up. This takes time, effort and, if you have never done it, you can easily become discouraged.

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