Originally published on my website, 6 May 2022
When was the last time you did nothing at all?
I don’t mean lying on a couch watching TV, or scrolling through news feeds, or listening to music, or text chatting a mate whilst you dodge chores. I mean nothing at all. The great stillness and silence that sits between things. Letting your mind wander where it will, without distractions or channels. Going from one thought to another without censorship or external interruption.
What strange shores would we wash to, if we cast ourselves adrift in our own minds? If we allowed ourselves to swirl away into the currents of the internal?
I recall camping as a child, staring into the campfire. No music or screens, back then. I recall staring up at the stars (back when my eyesight was good enough to see stars without glasses and squinting). I recall lying in the bath during long showers, back when wasting water was a distant external thing my mum nagged about.
My childhood was quieter than my adulthood. What music I had was taped off the radio in the three hours a week that radio station played metal. I’d carefully record it song by song on cassette tapes through a player that ran on batteries. The internet came with that cute dial tone as it tried to connect. Phone chats with mates happened hunched under the kitchen table, in the same room as my parents, as they watched TV. My sister and I played up a tree, or in the bush, or with rocks and twigs. New toys came at Christmas time or birthdays.
It felt like there was more space between the things. Like we crowded less between. It feels like once upon a time, stillness and silence was not an enemy to be avoided and vanquished with a screen.
As an adult, there is always noise. I have the TV on in the background as I work. I listen to music in the car. I check news apps on my phone as I sit in a waiting room, or chit-chat via text. Even sitting on the bus or the train, my mind is bombarded with advertising plastered across every flat surface, designed to snag the eye and mind.
What would it take to do nothing at all?
A blank wall?
We hide from our thoughts behind channels of advertisements, news, social media feeds and random chatter. What would our minds have to say, after all this time? Where would silence take us? What would stillness conceive?