Opinion

The serious art of doing nothing

By John Lewis

I had a week off work last week because sometimes you just need to step off the hamster wheel and do nothing.

When I say nothing, I mean nothing useful or memorable or Instagrammable.

I had no travel plans, no visitors, and no roofing, fencing, gardening or Earth orbit satellite repair projects in the pipeline.

Absolutely nothing — that was my goal.

I believe that everything we see around us comes from nothing and returns to nothing, so it's worth spending a little time in the void as a sort of rehearsal.

However, I have learned over the years that the art of doing nothing is exactly that — an art.

It takes creativity, deep thinking and constant alertness to do nothing 24 hours a day for seven days.

I would imagine prisoners in solitary confinement or the federal Minister for the Environment would be fairly adept at this.

For instance on the first day I made a coffee, swiped through social media and stared out of the window for four hours.

Suddenly I caught myself looking at a pile of branches and tree litter stacked on the back lawn and then suddenly I was on the hamster wheel again and working out ways to move it or burn it without blanketing the neighbourhood in smog.

This is the trickery of the devil.

I shook my head a few times, walked briskly into the lounge room, sat on the couch, stretched my shoulders and opened a book.

At the moment I am ploughing through George RR Martin's epic saga of blood, sex, corruption, poisonings and family trees.

I am into book four of Game of Thrones and let me tell you, I'm exhausted, but I'll stagger on because compared to US and British politics it's quite comforting to know that the world was once a reasonable sort of place where power disputes and ideological argument was decided at trial by combat.

Anyway, by lunchtime I needed to refuel for the long afternoon slog of nothing, which included the possibility of a dog-walk.

I usually decide on whether Prince Finski needs a walk by how high he leaps when I get off the couch. Two or three centimetres is not enough to get the lead off the hook. If he knocks over a coffee or whacks the cat with his tail, then he's ready. 

This time, Cleo the serenely smug Egyptian copped a full-on face whack sending her screeching down the hallway, which cheered me up immensely.

For that, Finski earned a collar-strangling sniff around Victoria Park Lake while I took in the mystery of the pelican and why people insist on feeding them white bread. 

After that rather abrupt immersion in the dumbness of the real world I needed another escape so I played Assassin's Creed on X-Box and killed countless pirates and Spartan thugs during a power rampage across the islands of ancient Greece.

I felt like an American president in Iraq.

Evening approached and suddenly it was the slide into log-fire watching, social media swiping and more blood, sex, corruption, poisonings and family trees, this time on the ABC News.

I had to smother a mild urge to tidy up the lounge room before I went to bed.

The next day I woke up exhausted and did it all again.

Now that I'm back at work it all seems like a dream — except for the hamster wheel.