Keeping the Rush Alive!
By Larry John
I read an interesting article the other day about how kids need time “to do NOTHING.” The article surmised that in order for children to develop their minds and have more fulfilling and complete lives, they need to have time to DO NOTHING. It seems that in today’s world of rush here, rush there, rush to soccer games, music lessons, school plays, church activities, clubs, private lessons, etc., children never really have time to experience “being a kid.” The Doctor who authored the article concluded that because of this RUSH to keep busy all the time, children these days are experiencing increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
I agree. I was one of those kids who never had much time to be a kid. I was on TV from the time I was five, as some of you know, and each week I had to memorize a new script, a new song and dance, and perform on two radio shows and a TV show each week. This was in addition to 3-4 music lessons plus school and church activities. I was a busy boy. Sure I played some, but I always had to “carve out time” to play. So is it any wonder that as I grew older I didn’t know how to play. Play is work to me. I feel guilty when I play. I feel guilty when I have time to do nothing. I feel guilty if I take a nap, go to a movie, and even take time out to write. If it doesn’t make money, I shouldn’t spend much time doing it. Well as I have grown older and have the means to “slow down” and “play” I realize that I don’t know how. I say that I am retired and only consult and advise my various businesses, but I find myself starting new businesses so I can’t slow down and “play.” I even moved out of my office of twenty plus years to an office out of my home, only to find that I spend 90% of my time in my home office doing “work” so I won’t feel guilty about not working. I am definitely “keeping the RUSH alive.” If I am not working…I feel that I am not a “good” person. Now my pragmatic mind can talk myself out of this guilt because being motivated by guilt is just plain stupid. Like I say in one of my Larryisms,”I don’t believe in guilt, and I feel bad about it.” But even with all this great logical reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that unless I am busy, I feel like I am not only letting me down, I am letting everyone else down. Now how silly is that?
I have really tried to find out how people “really” retire from working, and I have come to the conclusion that they never do. They only trade one work for another work. They may not sell insurance anymore, but they become artists who work at painting, or writers who work at writing. They say that most men DIE just a few years after retiring if they don’t fill their time with something else. Well, what am I supposed to “fill” my life with if not work? Very few can spend the rest of their life playing golf even if they can afford it. Traveling the world becomes old in a very short period of time. Sitting out by the pool and reading a book is fun for a few days, but not years. Face it. If we are not working we are not happy. And we have to call it WORK. Telling people you PLAY all day and have nothing to do makes you feel stupid.
“Hey Larry…What do you do all day.”
“Well Bob, I just play all day.”
“Really… Doing what?”
“I just do whatever I want to do….you know play.”
“Doesn’t that get old….just playing all day….just doing nothing….doesn’t that get old?”
“Yep….playing all day makes me sick. People think I am lazy. They think that if I am just playing all day that I am wasting my time. So I have decided to go to work for Wal-Mart and be one of those greeters at the front door…and say “Good morning and welcome to Wal-Mart’ or “Have a good day and thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart’….that way I can say I am still working and I won’t feel guilty about wasting my time anymore. What do you think?”
“I think that is great Larry. After all, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. You’ve got to keep busy or you will die. We are only truly happy when we are engaged in a worthy ideal. You’ve got to do something with your time. Maybe you could join a club or do some volunteer work at the hospital. But you can’t just sit around and do nothing. That will kill you. You have to have a reason to get up in the morning you know.”
Why do we talk like this to each other? Is there a script that we all have memorized that we have to say to each other if someone says they just play all day or have nothing to do today? What would happen if one day I got woke up and had I no reason to get up? How bad would that be? Would I just lie there until I could come up with a reason? And what if I just couldn’t come up with a reason? Would I just stay in bed all day? How bad could that be? I have never done that unless I was deathly ill, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for a day, just to never get out of bed except to eat and go to the bathroom. You know, just do nothing all day. Just read and watch TV and do nothing. Why is just reading or watching TV called doing nothing? That’s something isn’t it? Now I am not sure that I would want to read and watch TV everyday, but one day every so often wouldn’t be so bad would it? Why do we have to be sick in order for this to be acceptable? The reason I don’t stay in bed all day is that I always come up with a reason to get up in the morning. One day it would be wonderful to not have a reason to get up in the morning and just get up anyway. I wonder if that’s possible.
And then there’s that old anecdote that says when you are about to die you won’t say, “Boy I wished I had spent more time at the office.” But when we are not about to die the opposite is true. We want to spend more time at the office because if we are playing we are lazy drones letting everyone down and digging an early grave. Hey, I have heard of people working themselves to death but the paradox is also true; if you’re not working you die. Maybe we are going to die if we work or don’t work, but if you are working you die a better death. I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about a person who “worked himself to death.” But I can imagine gossip that would go around about a person who “played” himself to death.”
“He really had nothing to do all day…and so he just played golf and went to the movies and watched TV and sat around doing nothing, and that finally killed him.”
“It’s sad. We should have seen this coming. I could see it in his eyes that he had nothing to live for. He should have gotten out of the house and traveled or visited the sick or gone to work at Wal-Mart. But he just played and did nothing with his time and that’s sad, sad, sad. He would have been with us here today if only he had kept busy.”
“You know, a person can’t just sit at home and do nothing all day. It’s not a good thing. I remember when he was busy 24/7 and he was so happy. But in his later years he really did nothing with his time….and that’s what finally killed him. At the end all he did was read his mail and sleep. He would read books sometimes and watch TV, but that’s about all. He had nothing to live for.”
Now I have thought about this more and more as I am “he” who has less and less to “really” DO all day and more and more opportunities to do whatever I want to do with me time. Let me level with you right now. There is more to life than work….but figuring out what that “more” is…is not easy. It is easy to work yourself to death, but it is hard to play yourself to death. The stress of “playing” is so much less unless you cave in to self-imposed guilt. If you don’t die in a car crash, or some other accident, medical science tells us that stress will be the main cause of your heart attack, stroke, or cancer. But hey, what do they know? Most doctors die young, from the stress of telling us about stress, I guess.
So you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s the proverbial “catch 22.” If you are “working your guts out” or “doing nothing until it kills you” death is going to happen one way or another so why not play while the playing is good or why not work while the working is good? We should work if we want, and play if we want, and live until we die. But while we are alive we should enjoy life, NOW. So if you are not enjoying work….play more. And if we are not enjoying play….work more. Live a life that is authentically YOURS. I don’t think there are any “concrete” rules for a happy and fulfilled life. I think we get to make the rules. Sure everyone will want to tell you “their” rules for a happy life, but don’t listen to them carefully because what works for one will kill another. Think about it.