Wasting time in the pursuit of happiness!?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates

At times I get so involved in exploring a new idea that time passes quicker than it generally does. More often than not, I do not reach the intended crux of the new idea. Any wild exploration is  a meandering journey taking unexpected dips and turns… eventually leading to finding the new idea (good scenario) or finding something unexpected (will-do scenario) or finding nothing at all (dammit!)! At the end of such explorations I wonder whether the idea was really worth the time spent on it? Would it have been better to delegate the exploration to someone who has a better grasp of the idea? Shouldn't I be doing more meaningful structured tasks? Am I really up to writing a blog? Wouldn't it be better to write content for someone and get paid instead?

As I ponder over these time-spans not so well spent, my first impulse was to think of it as something negative — Wasted Time! But was time really wasted?

At work, I am far too acutely aware of time. Am I using it wisely? Am I being efficient? Getting adequate work done?

Structuring my day so that I can fit in work, exercise, writing, chores, hobbies, and updating this blog. There is certainly clear benefits in a life lived in routine. I love feeling that at the end of the day, I have done things for myself, as well as accomplished what was needed professionally, and hopefully worked in some time with friends and family. And the only way to do that, usually is by rigorously structuring and sticking to a routine.

But does adherence to routine risks cutting off the meandering flow of the mind to occasional unexpected pleasure of discovering the unknown?

Being structured and living as necessitated by needs of life, more often than not, makes life barren. There is no room for spontaneity, learning, and surprise. No room for defying expectations, for exploring with no preconceived purpose, and therefore, ending up somewhere completely unexpected. I love to set and meet goals, and in this way I suspect I’m a fairly representative member of our modern culture. We all desire to have full meaningful lives but how often does our definition of meaningful hinge on the recognition or perception of others? I admire those people who seem able to do it all, and I often think, “If only I were a little more focused, or used my time more wisely or efficiently, maybe I could be like that!”

But the truth is… while that might expand my resume or diversify my list of career accomplishments, it will do little to make me happy, and holds slim opportunity for the pleasure of discovery.

One of the great gifts of being creative, alike most forms of art-making, is that it is not a linear process. Too much structure and focus on the end business goal typically derails the entire creative act. Writing a blog gives me the satisfaction of creating something from nothing by capturing the open strings of my meandering mind. Though I have general writing goals, and I certainly have to impose discipline on myself to make room for writing in my day, but which topic to write on is unplanned… I like to keep it spontaneous without the need to have a focus or a goal. Goals and outcomes are all well and good for strategic planning, career paths, and athletic feats.

But to similarly structure every aspect of life is to lose the art of it.

We lose those moments when we might be most open and most ourselves, capable of discovery through examined contemplation and the flexibility to allow life to unfold as it will. It is the relaxation of control, the total lack of ambition for this moment, the permission for the mind to wander its path that fends off the barrenness of routine.

…And so I will continue to make time for it, to schedule in my spontaneity and think of such time not as wasted, but as the most precious I have.

I will waste time in the pursuit of happiness. Maybe you too should!

3 Replies to “Wasting time in the pursuit of happiness!?”

  1. If this is a way of wasting time, I love it! I am no fan of excessively structured life and being a teacher I am not comfortable with excessive structure in teaching too.
    Good thinking, and you have permission to waste my time this way. :) 

  2.  Dear Amit,

    Take a time capsule and join the 1979-83 batch in the years 1981 and 1982 at Garden reach Ship Builders and Engineers.Endless creativity sessions will be had, while contemplating the Hooghly from a rusty crane tower;or deep philosphical discussions on cricket,films ec while tossing the poori-aloo sabzi lunch packs at the swooping eagles.

    also during classes, bunches of us would have been found in the hostel listening to music, endless chai and cigarettes and somebody or the other would be playing one-tip-catch -out cricket.

    If you missed all this, I am sorry for any generation of DMETians.

    and later, at sea,one month long anchorages at Bombay for example would feed endless creativity..we were born for this kind of thing, but thanks for teh validation:)

    By the way.we had a simpler term for it.it was called "shamming". :)



    PS: I salute all my fellow shammers from those years: you were the best.

  3. One of the greatest pleasures in retirement is the opportunity to do unstructured meandering exploration without the aim of really discoveing something!

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