Lightly Child, Lightly

In the midst of financial news that seems to get grimmer by the day, one story of a man trying to escape caught my eye. Andrew Formica, the 51-year-old CEO of a $68 billion investment firm, abruptly quit his job. He did not have another job waiting—or anything else, it seems. When pressed about his plans, he said, “I just want to go sit at the beach and do nothing.”

Easy, right? Not for a lot of us, it isn’t. Besides the fact that you need to have a good deal of financial security to quit working, “it is awfully hard work doing nothing,” as Algernon said in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I can relate to this. I work long hours and have sometimes planned to go away and do nothing just for a week or two. But when I try, I find I am utterly incompetent: Idle chitchat drives me crazy; I get the jimmy legs 30 minutes into a movie; sitting on a beach is a form of torture. Whenever I make an effort to rest, my mind always wanders back to the work I am fleeing.

As difficult as it may be, Formica has the right idea. For the sake of happiness, strivers and hard-driving work machines of any income level need to learn to stop. If you are in this category, nothing should be high on your to-do list

Choose soft fascination.

During your unstructured vacation, choose activities that can gently hold your attention while also leaving you plenty of bandwidth to mentally meander. This is what three University of Michigan psychologists call “soft fascination,” and you might find it by walking in nature, or watching the waves. In contrast, “hard fascination” (found by, say, watching television) occupies attention and rules out mind-wandering. Research has found that soft fascination is more restorative than hard fascination. For example, in a 2018 study, survey respondents said that walking in nature was 15 percent more effective at helping them “get away from it all” than watching television…

If scheduling leisure seems unnatural to you, consider the way good health requires you to schedule your meals and exercise at more or less a certain time each day for a particular amount of time. Schedule “white space” in your day, and keep it off-limits from the tyrannical urgencies of your work (as well as from eating and exercise). If your guilt creeps in, or if you’re worried that “wasting” this time will somehow make you poorer, try to remember the words of the Welsh poet William Henry Davies: “A poor life this if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.”

— Arthur C. Brooks, from “How to Embrace Doing Nothing” (The Atlantic, August 4, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:51 a.m. May 8, 2022. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Comments

  1. Arthur Brooks hits all my “hot buttons”. It’s hard to move to the slow lane after +40 years running at 90mph in the left lane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Best to prepare early for the transition (board work, consulting, teaching Univ level Finance classes, etc.), and get your “head in gear”. It’s weird when the phone doesn’t ring any more. Enjoy your walk in nature

    Liked by 1 person

  3. niasunset says:

    escape to the nature from everything,… “Choose soft fascination.” I loved this expression, of course I haven’t read before. On the other hand, without doing something, is not for me too. But my mind is tired and I am in half depression… Especially living in this country with wrong minds at top of the country-managed making all of us like that… Sometimes I think of to escape somewhere but without any problems… is there any place like that?
    Thank you dear David, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my favorite Italian sayings is “Dolce far Niente”, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It does not mean being lazy, it is referring to the pleasure one gets from being idle. The ability to completely enjoy and savor a moment. (hey, I’m half Italian after all…)

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “Soft fascination” – what a perfect description and exercise. It’s something I’m not good at, but feel the competitive side of me rising to the challenge

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I needed this.
    On Wednesday afternoon I resigned. And I too don’t have a job waiting. And I’ve asked the universe for signs, please. Was I haste? Am I wrong?
    Thank you for sharing! I still can’t get myself to read more than a third down this post.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Reminds me of a course I took in coaching people about to retire! Now I would add getting more physical, healthy and comfortable in the body. It’s the most important relationship we have for the whole of our lives. Just sayin.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this. And I am softly fascinated by the beauty of those wings.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great News!
    Thanks & cheers
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “What is without periods of rest will not endure.” – Ovid

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve been in the fast lane and after many years practising the slow, I finally understand Hafiz.
    Don’t wait.

    ‘I wish I could show you the astonishing light of your own being.’
    Hafiz

    Liked by 2 people

  12. You know… I was just saying to a co-worker yesterday, that I will never go high up in a company because come 4:32 (in this case, as I finish at 4:30) I no longer think of the work or the people involved at work. I better not ever be called outside of work and I am zero interested in it. It’s a paycheque so that I can go and far niente in the woods, in the park, in my living room….
    Some might call me lazy…

    Liked by 2 people

  13. reading your blog offers me soft fascination…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The promise is still valid: I shall comment….. later!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I find I do like the ‘soft fascination’ approach very much. But I’ve been thinking about this all and must admit that after a constant and persistant ‘overload’ of emotional overtime I am now simply too tired to do stuff I would have done w/o complaining some years ago. My body just said STOP one day and I had to cede to its cry for help. I now don’t feel bad reading a book, knowing there would be others things to do, I cancel dates and move them to 2 weeks later, I don’t feel terrible if I do nothing but stare at our beautiful little lake, or take photos of tiny things just because I LOVE DOING THIS RIGHT NOW. It’s soul healing, I tell you.
    And yes, I know it’s not for you. It wasn’t for me either at your age – but, at least in that respect, YOUR time will come too. And reading or doing an online game or filling in a crossword, or preparing a lovely meal or phoning a friend, knowing you’ll hang on that phone for far longer than you’d like to, but do it anyway – all those occupations are good for the inner being. We can only ever be as good for others as we are good to and for ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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