The Average Buddhist

Thoughts & musings on everyday American Buddhism

05 July

Busyness: What Am I Saving Myself For?

A typical to-do pile

One of the better posts to come out of the American Buddhist blog recently was this post about busyness. Whitaker’s discussion centers around an article I also read and cross-posted to the Facebook community. It was called The ‘Busy Trap’ from the New York Times. In Whitaker’s blog post he refers to the many things he has floating around in the space of to-do, that there are things in the forefront and things on the back burner. He reflects on how lost these things can get over time – as well as in time.

There is certainly something to be gleaned from an examination of the relative importance of the things that take up our lives. It is too easy to get pulled into trivialities that in the end have no meaning for us. The world tries to require a trivial focus from us. Deciding to opt out of those time and energy sucking vortices can have its consequences. The NY Times article takes that perspective and brings us the time-honored word of warning that we may be missing out on MORE IMPORTANT THINGS (emphasis mine).

Yes, time-honored, but how true is is really?

When I look at the churning waves of things I do each day, week, month, year how judgmental should I really be? After all, what is it I should be doing instead? Yes, yes, philosophers may argue there is just as much “value” in staring at the ceiling as there is in writing a business report – or a blog post for that matter. But it really depends on your definition of the word value. If we all took hours at a time to stare at the ceiling and contemplate the meaning of life, as a community we would lose some of the greatest creative masterpieces and advancements that actually have made our lives better than the lives of the cave people. That those creative masterpieces and advancements come part and parcel with a lot of chum is irrelevant.

My favorite quote from Whitaker’s blog post was the following:

Yes, life is too short to be busy. But sometimes  it’s also too short to say no to busyness

That our lives are filled – sometimes to the brim – is not always a bad thing. Placing judgments on the way in which we or others spend the time we have on this planet is the height of dualistic thinking “a is bad; b is good” and does nothing but increase our suffering and that of the people around us through our constant second-guessing of whether or not we are making the best and highest use of our time. If we are busy, if we are not, we still must be. Some day we won’t be. That will be that.


2 Responses to “Busyness: What Am I Saving Myself For?”

  1. Coz BWJ says:

    A young (mid-30′s) and very accomplished woman I helped raise credits me with teaching her organizational skills (she has ADHD) when she was a child. A few years ago I was complaining to her about all I couldn’t get done. With an air of great wisdom and raised eyebrows, she said to me, “Barb – you do REALIZE, don’t you, that you are going to DIE with your to-do list only partly checked off?” I will never forget her comment.

    • littlemissyoda says:

      Oh dear, yes! It’s so true. This is why it is so important to try to maintain our sense of humor about all of it.