Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

The Fine Art of Doing Very Little

June 18, 2005

Here is what I did today: not too much.

Sure, I got up pretty early, packed my bag, rode a couple of hours to the Shenandoah River Outfitters, bounced in a dusty school bus to the river, and then reversed it all to come back home. In the middle, I picked the water vessel which demanded the least of me, the humble Tube. Which means I basically floated down with the current. I stopped at one point for a couple turns on the ubiquitous rope swing and shot a couple of tiny rapids, but otherwise I did just about nothing. Which was wonderful.

But as I was picking out the perfect Tube, I overheard a very anxious group of river runners. They all talked at once, quite loudly and to no one in particular. Their almost overwhelming concern: time.

“How long is this going to take? The lady on the phone said one thing, and the guy behind the counter said something else, and the bus driver said something else. Is it going to take two hours, or three hours, or even longer? Who should we ask? Where can we get a straight answer? Maybe we should ask this guy handing out tubes. Don’t you think he knows? I just don’t know about this!”

I felt like taking the ringleader aside and putting my arm around her, and speaking to her gently. “The reason no one can give you the definitive answer which you so desperately desire is that no one knows precisely how fast the current is moving today, how much wind there is, and how fast you will propel your craft down the river. This is nature, not some kind of amusement park. Furthermore, and more to the point, you would do well to relax. Because you will accommplish nothing today. You are here to experience the river, and the scenery, and your friends. Rush it, and you will miss it– all of it. Your decision to come here was a decision to waste one whole day of your life. And you made a good decision. Now you just need to make it stick. By wasting this day, you will gain something which you could never earn. And your frantic, unproductive life will be waiting for you whenever you get back to it.”

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One Response to “The Fine Art of Doing Very Little”

  1. Kate says:

    Awesome. We would all do well to remember this! I am far too often in that lady’s camp.
    I hope the tubing was fun…

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