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How To Do Nothing

Book Notes

When a book comes at you from multiple directions, Susan recommends it, XOXO recommends it, BookRiot recommends it, you need to add it to your reading pile. In my case, I added it to the Libby queue and up it popped, so, here we are.

And HERE we are. We are a society of always go go go, praying on the altar of productivity, never quite stopping to take a breath, look around, be. We know this won't really work out, though, in the long run, but we keep going, because hey, don't stop can't stop.

Right. So, here's the history: we used to be overworked for the capitalist overlords. We fought back, managed a 40 hour workweek, and then slowly drifted back to the always on. How to undo this?

1. Doing nothing is not a waste of time. You need that downtime, that shower time, that boredom, for creativity.
2. Stop and smell the roses. No, really. Pause to look around, notice the beauty in the small things, in the nature around you. Even if it just a squirrel in the backyard.
3. Doing nothing is not the same as idleness, it is a call to be intentional about one's attention.

While I enjoyed this book, and am incorporating its message, I wasn't overwhelmed by the message that others who recommended it to me. This book is definitely worth reading. Maybe I already recognized I needed to step off the treadmill? Maybe I already stepped off? I don't know. I agree, though, with the message, worth reading.

When people long for some kind of escape, it’s worth asking: What would “back to the land” mean if we understood the land to be where we are right now?
Location: 86

... there’s a tendency toward an aggressive monoculture, where those components that are seen as “not useful” and which cannot be appropriated (by loggers or by Facebook) are the first to go. Because it proceeds from a false understanding of life as atomized and optimizable, this view of usefulness fails to recognize the ecosystem as a living whole that in fact needs all of its parts to function.
Location: 201

Why is it that the modern idea of productivity is so often a frame for what is actually the destruction of the natural productivity of an ecosystem?
Location: 207

When the tree appears to the carpenter in his dream, it’s essentially asking him: Useful for what?
Location: 209

I hope it can help people find ways of connecting that are substantive, sustaining, and absolutely unprofitable to corporations, whose metrics and algorithms have never belonged in the conversations we have about our thoughts, our feelings, and our survival.
Location: 269

One thing I have learned about attention is that certain forms of it are contagious. When you spend enough time with someone who pays close attention to something (if you were hanging out with me, it would be birds), you inevitably start to pay attention to some of the same things. I’ve also learned that patterns of attention—what we choose to notice and what we do not—are how we render reality for ourselves, and thus have a direct bearing on what we feel is possible at any given time.
Location: 271

A public, noncommercial space demands nothing from you in order for you to enter, nor for you to stay; the most obvious difference between public space and other spaces is that you don’t have to buy anything, or pretend to want to buy something, to be there.
Location: 457

Anyone who has ever tried any funny business in a faux public space knows that such spaces do not just script actions, they police them. In a public space, ideally, you are a citizen with agency; in a faux public space, you are either a consumer or a threat to the design of the place.
Location: 464

In a situation where every waking moment has become the time in which we make our living, and when we submit even our leisure for numerical evaluation via likes on Facebook and Instagram, constantly checking on its performance like one checks a stock, monitoring the ongoing development of our personal brand, time becomes an economic resource that we can no longer justify spending on “nothing.” It provides no return on investment; it is simply too expensive. This is a cruel confluence of time and space: just as we lose noncommercial spaces, we also see all of our own time and our actions as potentially commercial.
Location: 489

Berardi, contrasting modern-day Italy with the political agitations of the 1970s, says the regime he inhabits “is not founded on the repression of dissent; nor does it rest on the enforcement of silence. On the contrary, it relies on the proliferation of chatter, the irrelevance of opinion and discourse, and on making thought, dissent, and critique banal and ridiculous.” Instances of censorship, he says, “are rather marginal when compared to what is essentially an immense informational overload and an actual siege of attention, combined with the occupation of the sources of information by the head of the company.”
Location: 536

The first tool has to do with repair. In such times as these, having recourse to periods of and spaces for “doing nothing” is of utmost importance, because without them we have no way to think, reflect, heal, and sustain ourselves—individually or collectively.
Location: 607

When overstimulation has become a fact of life, I suggest that we reimagine #FOMO as #NOMO, the necessity of missing out, or if that bothers you, #NOSMO, the necessity of sometimes missing out.
Location: 610

There is in fact a connection between 1) listening in the Deep Listening, bodily sense, and 2) listening, as in me understanding your perspective.
Location: 626

Connectivity is the rapid circulation of information among compatible units—
Location: 628

With connectivity, you either are or are not compatible. Red or blue: check the box. In this transmission of information, the units don’t change, nor does the information.
Location: 629

Sensitivity, in contrast, involves a difficult, awkward, ambiguous encounter between two differently shaped bodies that are themselves ambiguous—and this meeting, this sensing, requires and takes place in time. Not only that, due to the effort of sensing, the two entities might come away from the encounter a bit different than they went in.
Location: 631

Zhuang Zhou, The, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 31.
Location: 3,694

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