Friday, April 19, 2013

Barrenness and Busy

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." - Socrates

This quote flashed at the bottom of the one of the newsletters I subscribed to years ago in my e-mail.  I looked at it briefly then immediately closed down the window and scurried off to the next task that I had to accomplish.  The thought lingered though, through a day of meetings and trainings and conversations - in other words, a day of being busy.

I have already pondered the fact that my time seem scarcer than ever and the result was a consideration of looking at what I was trying to accomplish.  But I wonder if I am looking deeply enough.

The quote itself seems initially contradictory.  If one is busy, the assumption is that one's life is full of something - after all, to be busy is to be busy about something.  It is not as if one is being lazy; one is doing things. 

And barrenness has an ugly connotation.  It is not just the sense of less; it is the sense of nothing.  Think of some of the desert landscapes you have viewed in pictures or even driven through in travels:  rock, gravel, scrub brush.  Little indications of life; almost no indications of comfort.

And this, suggest Socrates, can be the outcome of a busy life.

Why?  It makes sense if one gives it some thought.  A fruitful life, like a fruitful landscape, takes care.  It takes attention.  It takes an investment into what one is doing.  If you have ever planted or landscaped or gardened, you know that to truly grow something you just spend five minutes occasionally on the plants and then immediately move on.  To be busy, to be rushing from thing to thing without investing the time and energy to make sure that something actually succeeds, will ultimately insure that nothing succeeds.  We can always be doing but can end up never accomplishing.

The impact for me?  I always feel like I am am busy:  at work rushing here and rushing there, at home always immediately trying to take care of the list of items I have which I want to do because they are the reminders of a life not totally tied up in work. 

But am I accomplishing anything?  Or, as Socrates suggests, am I merely insure that my life we become barren, another testimony to the fact that busyness is not always indicative of true accomplishment?

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