Being Deliberately Useless

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men (and women) are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.

Thomas Merton

It takes a deliberate decision, and a difficult decision at that, to decide to NOT do something one could do. That is exercising ones ability to choose and it is a choice that can only be made by oneself, alone. Formal meditation is based on a deliberate decision to agree with oneself to not do anything, and then there is the flow of attention, of being finely present. A very private flow, an intimate connecting beyond all reason. We long for intimacy and there it is, right there!

I was thinking of small children when they are found or caught ‘daydreaming’ by their parent or carer and brought out of themselves to ‘go and play with the other children’. So-called daydreaming, being alone with oneself, and thus not usefully being a child doing what children are expected to do is not understood. Or appreciated. No wonder as adults one can feel slightly embarrassed to be ‘caught’ or discovered by accident sitting in formal meditation. Even as a monk I can remember sitting formally in my room and with a knock on the door I’d find myself being apologetic, ‘Oh, I was err…just sitting’!

Yes, we are wired for action, for doing the livelong day. Being with oneself, spending time alone with oneself, not necessarily sitting in formal meditation, has to be a deliberate decision NOT to do something else. Being ‘useless’, resting in uselessness!

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6 thoughts on “Being Deliberately Useless”

  1. Thank you Rev. Mugo. Silence, solitude, daydreaming. Love it! Doing nothing, without making that “something to do” is so important… it really does open windows.

  2. I learnt this poem by the Welsh poet W H Davis at school.

    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

  3. I love this, Rev Mugo, thank you. As someone with CFS/ME, a deliberate choice to not ‘do’ is one that I have had to make a lot, and yet it is still hard at times! Many years of conditioning around the need to “accomplish things”…

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