“Beware the Barrenness of a Busy Life”

Some permutation of the sentiment of being busy is a common answer to the question, “How are you?” Busy started being worn as a badge of honor at the same time in history that burn-out was categorized as an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization.

We accept as self-evident that life in the modern world is meant to be busy and filled from the moment we arise until bedtime, sometimes lying awake with excited or anxious thoughts of the day ahead.

What is less self-evident is the understanding that a busy life is often a choice. Inviting the frivolous and fearing boredom, we turn to distractions that are only one remote or mouse click away. Why do we feel the need to relentlessly capitalize time, our most precious, nonrenewable resource?

A packed schedule can serve as a distraction from emotional pain. In this way, self-medicating with busyness is not all that different from a substance addiction. It is amazing how quickly demons of regret, guilt, grief, and depression arise when one has a large chunk of time to reflect upon the past or plan for the future. Anyone engaging in a silent and still meditation practice will attest to the emotional and psychological fallout that ensues from trying to be fully present without distraction.

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The drive to squeeze the most out of life may stem from a fear of missing out. This phenomenon is well known to fellow residents of the Midwest, who hibernate in winter (save for the holiday season) and burn themselves out every summer with all the festivals and events that could conceivably fill every weekend. Who needs sleep? Besides, it is light out late into the evening hours. We can sleep more in winter—but we don’t because winter is the perfect time to binge-watch a TV series. Such temptations are commonplace in a modern world replete with ever-increasing forms of entertainment.

Busyness can be a thief of life, fueled by the fear of missing out or a desire to numb the monkey mind. This holiday season, let go of the busy and embrace quiet and contemplative moments, whenever and wherever you find them.

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” 

December 16, 2019

Categories: Philosophy

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