Tag Archives: idleness

Proclaimed Busyness

5 Jul

Busyness.  Or supposed busyness.  Claimed busyness.  It is something that has driven me crazy for years and something I could never quite articulate.  Why do people compete with one another to see who is the busyiest?  Who is so put upon that they don’t have time to do any of the enjoyable things in life?  Who is so awkwardly proud about that?  And, why do I care about how much more packed your day is than mine?  Well, finally someone has done it.  Tim Kreider of the New York Times wrote this article about the boastful complaint of busyness and I think in a lot of ways he hits the nail on the head.  He points out that

it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve ‘encouraged’ their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

He then continues.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it…. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

It’s true.  And, I’ve noticed, it is largely though the guilt attributed to the feeling of having free time.  There are plenty of things I do, like watching The 15 Biggest Tear-Jerking Moments in Summer Olympic History*, that I don’t necessarily tell people about because I can’t stand to hear the retort of “Oh, I’m just too busy to watch something like that.”  Talk about making someone feel useless and indulgent, you know?  But maybe Kreider’s existentialist musings can add a little insight.

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

And then in the conclusion Kreider addresses the issue that might have popped up a bit throughout his piece.  That it is a luxury for one to choose a life that allows for long bike rides in the middle of the day and routine drinks with friends at night.

My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

For some people, due to their skill set, the impacts of institutionalized sexism and racism and a myriad other isms, their time, unfortunately, is not worth enough monetarily to allow them to invest quite as much of it with loved ones as Kreider claims to.  And that’s a shame.  But those of us who do have the ability to spend time with friends and family should make an effort to do so, and we shouldn’t have to schedule it in or make people feel like burden on us.  Those of us who aren’t so busy as to be tired to the bone should feel proud, not ashamed, and we should hope that some day everyone will be so lucky.
* Definitely watch the one about Derek Redmond, a real tear-jerker.  That is, if you aren’t too busy.