‘Doing nothing’ achieves a lot

  • Opinion
  • Sunday, 10 Jul 2016

In our fast-paced life, taking time off to stand and stare is critical for the well-being of the soul.

IT was a breeze travelling on the roads and highways in the Klang Valley this past week – a real pleasure for motorists who remained in the city when nearly everyone else had balik kampung.

It brings to mind one of Lat’s iconic cartoons showing rodents sunbathing on a street in Kuala Lumpur during the festive period.

Although my movements are somewhat limited these days for medical reasons, I took advantage of the low traffic conditions to venture further from my home to catch up with friends.

Besides dropping in briefly on a few Hari Raya open houses, I was able to explore the practically empty Lake Gardens located in the heart of KL city, officially known as Perdana Botanical Gardens.

Strolling along the spacious tree-lined pathways and beautifully manicured gardens brought back many pleasant memories of a time when I used to frequent the park.

I was even brave enough to attempt an outing to a popular mall – something I would not usually do on a public holiday to avoid the stress of looking for a parking lot – and had an enjoyable time.

In fact all my trips this past week went smoothly, without the usual jams. I’m rather sorry that that will soon come to an end as office workers and schoolchildren get back to the grind tomorrow.

At times like these, I cannot but realise how much stress we have to deal with during normal working days. We have learnt to live with the reality that travelling from Point A to Point B will stretch on to an hour or more.

But doing the same route in mere minutes during the festive break made me wonder what it all actually adds up to, not only in terms of fruitless time spent on the road, but in terms of our life choices.

As I travelled along clutter-free roads this past week, it made me wonder if for some of us there may be options which have not been fully explored to simplify our lives.

How many of us have cluttered up our days so much that we sometimes feel that we are stuck in a perpetual jam?

Our diaries are filled with back-to-back appointments. Every hour of the day demands something of us, and there seems to be no getting out of it.

Author and management consultant Manfred Ket De Vries wrote, “In today’s networked society we are at risk of becoming victims of interaction overload. Introspection and reflection have become lost arts as the temptation to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out that’ is often too great to resist.”

He contends that people associate “doing nothing” with wasting valuable time, and are constantly checking e-mails, Facebook and texting.

But the biggest danger, he says, is not so much losing connection with each other, but with ourselves.

De Vries notes that setting aside regular periods of “doing nothing” may be the best thing we can do to nurture our imagination and improve our mental health.

I have long subscribed to that wise counsel. As poet William Henry Davies put it so eloquently:

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Of late, I have found myself in a position where I am regularly forced to “stand and stare” – well sit and stare actually – for all the hours it takes to complete each chemotherapy session.

But in those hours, I have seized the opportunity to commune with friends who drop by, with myself and with my Creator. And I can honestly say I am so much richer for it. Indeed, “doing nothing” has done me a world of good.

Executive Editor Soo Ewe Jin believes that every pathway in life can lead to personal growth.

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