"Idle hands do the Devil's work, Paul." K. Vonnegut, ‘Player Piano’
Late into the evening I sit as still as I can to take in hours lived at a pace too fast to sustain, worried I didn’t do enough to give eternity to the day.
I should’ve written more words, set a plan for tomorrow, had better conversations with those I love . . . done-more-to-earn-more type of thinking. Fruitless thinking that pushes my mind around the track in unending cycles until I fall asleep. It’s not a good way to go.
Idleness creeps into my bones, not in my gaze ahead to promise and possibility, but as I look back over my shoulder to the hours lived already. Its lingering effect leads me away from productivity.
I drift to uncertainty.
And uncertainty leaves me insecure of my doings.
Just a few days ago, my hands stayed and my thoughts circled much longer than hands and thoughts should and late evening buried me. I could only give account to a couple hours of useful work. The rest, categorized in worry, doubt, fear and frustration - the devil’s work as Vonnegut rightfully called it.
We should not be auto-bots mechanized to churn out lifeless work measured by a time frame commanding our start and stop. That’s just as idle as standing still while the present continues to flow right through your legs. For me, the habit of idle is about allowing my mind to be preoccupied by things I can’t change, or shouldn’t. To make my point clear, going back through my day can be a very fruitful exercise of celebrating all things that went right and pay attention to what went wrong - good. The danger in idleness is allowing thought to drift unhinged to purpose.
The counterbalance to idle thought and action is purposeful rest.
There can be plenty of purpose in sitting outside, quiet under the stars, and just exhale thoughts and weights held onto throughout the day. Likewise, there can be many pitfalls to grabbing in the exhale. That stickiness is called regret and that is where idleness brings me.
So how do you determine which path to take, purposeful rest clearing your mind for rejuvenation and new day or static thought tangled in idle recounting?
Quite simple really, practice rest.
For me, meaningful rest from a weighted schedule takes practice. My tendency is to hold onto the weight while I’m not actually doing much at all, or rather can’t do much at all due to diminishing hours in the day or receding energy with which to do more. I’m challenged by the limitations of hours and energy in each day. It leads me to invest more into conversations with my family, work when work should be done and rest well.
Vonnegut would be for playing the piano rather than the piano playing for you.