The Sunday Letters Journal
Sunday Letters
222 On The Merit of Doing Nothing
222 On The Merit of Doing Nothing
Being busy versus taking time to contemplate oneself

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Transcript Extract

I’ve been experimenting with transcriptions. Here’s an extract from this week’s monologue.

Welcome to episode 222, On The Merit of Doing Nothing. This is the Sunday letters podcast, part of the Sunday letters journal. Read, and listen to all previous episodes and issues of the newsletter over at There's a link at the top of the show notes, probably one or two in between, and one at the bottom. This podcast is free. Although if you decide to become a paying subscriber cost about three euros or €3.50 or $3.50 about the price of a good cup of coffee, you'll get subscriber-only episodes, short, little extracts, and other articles that are reserved for paying subscribers and supporters of the Sunday letters journal. So if you decide to do that I'd be very grateful. If not, you can listen for free. It's a free episode. And if you're so inclined, give us a review on apple podcasts or wherever you happen to listen to your podcasts.

Tell us what you think of the show. Give us a few stars, help people find what I'm doing and lets me know what you think of this material. So this week, I'm talking about the merit of doing nothing or switching off and tuning out of doing the opposite of being busy. And what got me on this topic this morning was I had planned something completely different, but an item appeared in my feed on LinkedIn about a piece of research that was reported in the Guardian, on the merits and the benefits of, and the ability to access air creativity. When we actually switch off from thinking, and it is true. And it's been reported in a number of different places by many writers that the benefit of switching off and going off for a wander and doing things that are not associated with work, call it rest, recuperate, recuperation, whatever you want to call it.

But it's, it's the absence of thinking and then, and trying to solve the problem or get where you want to go. We live in a world. That's very much hinged to the idea that you've got to be active. You've got to be productive. You've got to be working your ass off. You've got to work all the hours that are sent in order to make enough money in order to be of enough value to other people, to the corporation, to the company, to your customers, whoever. And it's really a foolish idea where we're, we're so welded to the nuts and bolts idea of life, to the practicalities of life, to

The ones and the zeros. And if it's not a one or a zero, if it's not, if we're not active enough if there's no data to read, if we're acting on a whim or an apparent whim, well, then that's in, that's not valuable at all. In fact, it's useless. So to play, for example, is something you do when you finish work, when you're finished being active and getting stuff done, you know because you're a practical human being. And, you know, in order to get ahead in the world, you've got to be a doer, and you've got to go after it, you know, embrace the hustle and all this kind of nonsense. And it's because I suppose we live in a technological society a digital society, and we've been this, this, our hegemonic common sense about work suggests that you've always got to be active and it's the value is in the data.

And the data will tell you everything you need to know, like as if we can predict the future. And we know we can't. The weather forecast can't even be predicted. And why do you think as a human being, as a kind of single cell in this multicellular organism we call life. Why is it did you think that you can predict and determine your future when nothing else can be predetermined, it arrives, and it's magical almost, and we should be content with that, but instead, we want to analyze the shit out of everything, and we have to work our asses off in order to be valuable to ourselves and other people. And it's a nonsense. So what do we do? We keep working and we work and we work and we work and we try to make things happen. And we try and circumvent the inevitable. We try and get around through the back door and cheat and try to get ahead of all the nasty shit that we , that we think is gonna come. And it does come because life is, life is a crime of two sides, but it's all a waste of time. A lot of it.

So this article appeared in my feed this morning and it was about the importance of taking time out. And it, it really is critical. I immediately thought of three books, four books, maybe even more where I previously read about the importance of taking time to do nothing. I couldn't find his book this morning, but Carol Ravelli is a quantum gravitational physicist, an Italian bloke. He probably read this stuff. There are a couple of really good books and audiobooks on the nature of reality time and space, et cetera, et cetera,

Very readable. It's not too heavy, you know? And I think it's in the introduction to, I can't remember the name of the book, but he speaks about how, how valuable his time away from study. It was like a year maybe I think he took a year off to just kind of loaf about in the states or whatever. And and just to kind of do whatever he felt like doing. And he, his commentary was around the idea that we often think that this time young people take to do nothing and to loaf off and do whatever they want to do is wasted. And no one particular adult parent of, of a, of a kid. I know, and she couldn't wait to get her son into school. And I think he'd be like 16 or not far gotten 16 when he is finishes leaving cert when he is left school and ready for tour level.

And it strikes me that the kid doesn't, and hasn't been afforded the time to just do nothing, you know, and we discount the value in it. Anyway, I'm, I'm rambling. So read this article and it was in the guardian just wanna pull it up here. So the article says that losing oneself in one's thoughts are letting the mind wander is an underrated activity that is most rewarding. The more it is practiced. An academic study has claimed like, as if you need, as if you need an academic study to tell you that, right. Psychologists who studied a group of more than 250 people encourage them to engage in directional contemplation or free floating thinking said that the activity was far more satisfying than the participants had anticipated.

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The Sunday Letters Journal

Sunday Letters

The Sunday Letters Podcast is the weekly audio newsletter from organisational psychologist Larry Maguire on the meaning & purpose of daily work and our paradoxical relationship with it. We explore how we may break free from tiresome means-to-an-end labour and take command of their own working lives. Topics include solo working, careers, entrepreneurship, small business economics, society and culture. Content follows the written newsletter, which goes out to subscribers every Sunday.

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Larry G. Maguire