Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Post About Nothing

by Karen D. Swim

This is a post about nothing. Seriously. There are no neatly bulleted or numbered lists telling you how to, when to, or why to. Do not look for the deeper meaning because there is none. This is not a gimmick or cheap marketing trick to get you here and then wham surprise you with a brilliant post that moves you to tears. It really is about absolutely nothing. Nada baby, zilch! So don't say I did not warn you.

Most people are familiar with the oft quoted 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want) but one of my favorite verses is "he leadeth me beside still waters (quiet waters in some translations), he restoreth my soul." When I think of still waters, it immediately fills me with a deep peace. The stillness here I believe refers to internal as well as external. In my mind the still waters is a place of deep restoration and tranquility, a place where nothing is happening.

In our fast paced world, we don't leave room for nothing. Children who are doing nothing are given something to do. In the workplace, doing nothing could be grounds for termination. Even our conversations have to be about something.

One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.--Ariel Durant

Yet, doing nothing has its merits. Seinfeld was a show about nothing, or rather the mundane, everyday that makes up our lives. You know the stuff we miss because we're too busy doing something.

In those nothing moments, my mind is allowed to roam free. My senses become more attuned to the world around me. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. Inspiration is allowed to flow freely and my creativity is sparked. Nothing seems impossible when I am doing nothing.

If it has been awhile since you did nothing, join me by the still waters today. We can do nothing together.

I would absolutely love to talk about nothing with you so please spark a discussion by posting your comments. If I'm out doing nothing, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.


Yvonne Russell said...

LOL. I'd like to say I have "nothing" to say, but this post is too cool to pass by without comment.

We do live in a goal/productivity oriented world, so thanks for the reminder that it's okay to do "nothing" once in a while.

Joanna said...

What a beautiful post Karen. Your writing has a lyrical quality about it... must be the benefit of spending time doing nothing.

Thanks for the reminder :-)


Roland Hesz said...

I remember reading it somewhere
"I always run after something and thus, missed everything"

I won't tell you where I read it, or if I quoted it word by word, but I think we know what the man meant by this.

Brett Legree said...


For a post about nothing, it speaks volumes.

I try to do this once or twice a week. A glass of wine, and a fire. Stare into the fire. Think about, and do, nothing.

The clarity of thought that follows is incredible.

As you know, I plan to live in New Zealand someday. Many of my friends think I want to be there so I can enjoy all of the extreme sports and so forth.

As attractive as that is, I simply want a small house on the ocean. So that I can sit by a fire on the beach, with a glass of wine every night, and do nothing.


Words For Hire said...

@ Yvonne, LOL! I love it! I'm so glad you popped in and did "something." :-) I think we all help one another to give ourselves a break now and then. You said as much in your post last week about the "noise" of the internet. Do you find it hard to do nothing and not feel guilty about it?

@Joanna, my dearest friend and writing coach, your words are music to my ears. I am so glad that you could catch a rhythm. I am trying to put my learnings into practice, thanks to you and dear Mr. King. Today, I came boldly to the page to write about nothing. ;-)

@Roland, you always have the best quotes! Today ,you have provided yet another powerful insight. My goodness this truly does describe our world today, running after something and missing everything. Wow! Thanks Roland! ;-)

@Brett, Niebu my kilted wonder friend! I felt my muscles soften as I read your words. Fire, ocean, nothing - my idea of absolute perfection! I have a longing to visit New Zealand too. When you and your family move there save a (sturdy) seat by the fire for me. LOL! I don't think I'll ever forget the sound of the crackling chair and Friar's astonished tones. Sends me into hysterical laughter even now. :-)

I wish I could hug all of you for stopping in and doing nothing with me. In our time starved world, it means a lot to me that you made time for me in your day. I don't take any of you for granted - thank you!

jamiegrove said...

Karen, I'm with Joanna on this one. This has to be one of your best posts ever. So good I'm not even going to make with the funny.

Clearly, On Writing had a profound effect on you this weekend. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Words For Hire said...

@ Jamie,*blushing* your flattery fills my pen with ink. ;-) I am really glad you enjoyed it. Isn't it funny how when writing you never know what will resonate. Sometimes what I think is brilliant is only so in my own mind. No wonder writers are so sensitive, eh? LOL!

Ann - One Bag Nation said...

I remember Martha Beck talking about how hard it is to do nothing in our crazy culture. The closest I can come is to count to 10 in the shower while trying to envision a beautiful sky. I'm embarassed to admit that I couldn't do it to 30 . . .

Brad Shorr said...

I agree with the other readers, Karen. This is a beautiful post worth reading and re-reading. Too much emphasis on doing in our culture, and not nearly enough on being. When I saw your title, the first thing I thought of was Seinfeld (I wish I could say it had been the Bible). But Seinfeld, though claiming to be about nothing, was full of deeply relevant observations about life. Just like you post!

Brett Legree said...


There will always be a chair for you at my table... and after what happened to poor Friar, all chairs will be sturdy!!!

I'm sure you'll get your chance to go to NZ yourself (and hopefully, come and visit us!)

There is a place, a lookout on Scenic Drive about 40 minutes out of Auckland on the way to Karekara and Piha, you can see Auckland City and the Sky Tower.

But you hear - nothing.

Nothing at all.


Words For Hire said...

@Ann, LOL! Don't feel bad, doing nothing takes practice. I think it's partly because we guilt ourselves into this ever achieving mode. The funny thing is bad things don't happen when you just stop, we imagine far worse than actually happens. Keep practicing and you will make it to 30 in no time. :)

@Brad, hehehehe, yea the title was a nod to Seinfeld. See you were right! :) Thank you Brad for the awesome compliment, it means so much! Also, thanks for the nod to the humor blog in your links post, I went, I read, I laughed hysterically.

@Brett, this morning I would have appreciated hearing nothing. I was rudely awakened by loud canadian geese. I thought of Friar, smiled, and kept chanting, I love animals, I love animals.

Ellen Wilson said...

Hi Karen,

This is a very finely tuned, lyrical post about nothing. So it must be about something. Something is inherent in nothing. Ha! Oh, you know how I am, getting all philosophical.

I agree with the craziness of our goal oriented society. Today I did nothing. Well, I went grocery shopping, so that is something, but I wasn't on the computer so it seemed relaxing. Then, we went out for ice-cream and relaxed at Romence Gardens wandering around looking at shrubs.

It's nice the spring has finally arrived in Michigan.

Your post is very relaxing and the writing is like basking in the sunshine. Have a good night! E

Ellen Wilson said...

And your post reminded me of something. It doesn't seem we get to savor eachother's writing on the Web because we get so busy visiting people and commenting. Blogs aren't like books, unfortunately. But in many ways they are like mini-chapters of our lives.

Words For Hire said...

@Ellen, we are having kind of a strange Spring though and now it's almost over. It is pretty though and I am enjoying all the green and warm weather. You're funny. I love your philosophical questioning. I think that nothing is inherently something because nothing is non existent and if it doesn't exist we could not be doing it. Ha!

I know what you mean about the blogs too. This week I've been trying to spread my visits in chunks throughout the day. It would be kind of neat if we had a community discussion form where we could read and then have one big giant comment party. As it is now I think we just end up talking wherever we are....kind of funny. I'm glad you had a chance to do "nothing." We all need that. Have a great night E! :-)

Anonymous said...

There are some Saturdays, where I don't know what I'm going to do, I have no plans and I just go where the day takes me.

I love days like that.

I like to do this with Blogs too.

Just enjoy them, and forget about making insightful comments or worry about being motivated or coached or trying to learn something.

This post was a wonderful reminder about taking it easy.

- Friar.

PS. Brett's chair was BROKEN before I sat on it!

Words For Hire said...

@Friar, every single time I remember that night I dissolve into laughter like a two year old. I think it's funnier that I couldn't see you just heard the sound. I promise to do something equally funny so you can have a good laugh on me too. :) I like the way you think Friar. People who fish are usually good about being mellow. It is nice to have those days where you can just let the day unfold without any obligations or "must -do's." I know the chair was broken,but it's still hilarious! LOL!

Steph VanderMeulen said...

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert also talks about il bel far niente, Italian for "the beauty of doing nothing." Since I'm not a person inclined to sit still for very long, I'm still learning this artform, but I'm aware of the amazing value. You can recharge, and clear your mind and make room for creativity, clarity, and spirituality, and find balance, something too often elusive in our fast-paced lives. Great post, Karen!

Melissa Donovan said...

I'm with the others who said that this is a beautiful and lyrical post. I felt more and more relaxes as I read it.

A few months before I started freelancing, I got really into meditating and practiced it every single day for months. Now I feel like getting back to that nothingness. Thank you!

-Melissa Donovan

Words For Hire said...

@Steph, great photo! I keep wanting to read that book and have not gotten around to it! It does take practice to do nothing. I tend to be fidgety too, physically and mentally. LOL!

@Professor Donovan :) Meditation does quiet the mind, doesn't it? I have tried to help teach my nieces about "quiet time" to start their day. We are such a go-go culture that we don't take time to just spend time with ourselves. I spent a lot of quiet time before starting my business too and am not sure I would have been able to do it without being fully present and quiet. Did you find that too?

sexy said...