When we think of service, we tend to think of being busy. But that’s only part of the story. Idleness is important too—the kind of leisure we need in order to listen to that inner voice, to let our imaginations really take off.
In his book The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell blames modern parents for failing to recognize the advantages to their youngsters of what he calls “fruitful monotony.” He wrote, “A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”
Today’s great concern is for organized, supervised, and directed activity. Each year fewer children are being left alone long enough to discover and enjoy the world—the time of fruitful monotony. Too many of us feel we have to pacify and occupy our kids with toys and more toys, games and television. Television takes up some of the time that would otherwise be spent in creative activity.
Robert W. Wells, a feature writer for the Milwaukee Journal, wrote an article many years ago that I clipped and saved. In it, he said, “Children have an inalienable birthright—the leisurely pressure-free hours when a child is thrown on his own resources and forced to become acquainted with himself.” Wells told of a time when he was a boy that he found himself terrifically bored. He complained to his grandmother about having nothing to do. He explained, “She took me by the hand and led me out onto the big front porch, where a succession of fiercely preoccupied bumblebees plunged headlong into blue morning glory blossoms. The sounds and smells of summer were in the air.” And his grandmother said, “Nothing to do? The world is there. Go use it.”
Boredom is a great time for reflection, for using the imagination. I suppose Isaac Newton was bored when he saw the apple drop from the tree and began to wonder about gravity. You can get your best ideas when you have nothing to do but think. Fruitful monotony—don’t fight it; use it creatively.
This is an excerpt from Earl Nightingale’s The Direct Line, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, 800-CEO-READ, and other fine retailers. The first beautifully packaged print edition of Nightingale’s famous audio program, this book offers a practical guide designed to help you find real and lasting success in your career, relationships, and finances. Pick up a copy today and begin the most exciting and rewarding journey on earth—your journey of self-discovery and personal fulfillment! Also, don’t forget the accompanying action guide, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
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