Sometimes, The Most Important Thing to Do is (Literally) Nothing

One of the most brilliant things we did over the honeymoon was nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. The road trip was hilarious. Figuring out sex was delightful. Watching the Twins game to the tune of Alaskan Amber and Chicken Parmesan is my sweet spot.

Still, the best thing we did was nothing.

We’d wake up, roast coffee, and sit on the porch with nothing but light roast in mugs, a Bible and two journals. We read the Bible, sure, and we even hoped bright hopes in God’s presence.

But we also just did plain nothing.

“Doing life together” -- the extrovert’s thrill-- is a tired if important path to discovering meaning both within the Christian community and without. The following is me, in three reasons, trying to reconcile why the nothing part sticks out as the best part of our honeymoon.

1: It’s a detox from junk-food connectivity.

The difference between what’s junk-food connection and life-giving connection is self-evident. For me, it’s been news blooper videos, MLB trade deadline rumors, and constantly checking my second Twitter that follows all my favorite sports minds. It’s spending an hour looking up all my friends from high school to see where they’re at.

This kind of connection is like a Little Caesar’s pizza: it’s cheap, it feels good, and the only short-term damage is the sweatpants and Reese’s Puffs mood it creates afterward. You probably already know, actually, what that is for you.

I’m not talking about porn, hitting up good-riddance exes, or chat roulette with intentions so sinister and bored. That’s not $5 pizza. That’s hydrogen peroxide connectivity, and it’ll make quick work shredding up your soul.

Doing nothing is detox from the Little Caesar’s connection, like celery, orange juice, or Cliff Bars. (Maybe?) Either way, doing nothing for ten minutes gives you a break from cat videos to point you to something more constructive. Like calling your mom. Or taking a big breath. Or drawing stick figures. Or watching grass grow. Anything. But. Cat. Videos.

2: It calls you back to what’s important.

Just like Little Caesar’s, cheap connection fills you up just enough to make you question if there’s anything else you need to feed from. It takes me a good thirty seconds of doing nothing before it sinks in how easily malnourished I am. As the ground and foundation of my life, cheap connection will forever torture me with shallow intimacy and a distracted mind.

When I carve little spaces to do nothing in my day, I squirm. I want. I tap my feet. I try to put on the right Spotify playlist for ambience. It’s painful, but then again so is acknowledging things as they’re meant to be and things as they actually are. Do nothing a little more, and you’ll realize all the areas of your life-- friends you accidentally ignore, peripheral passions you never grow, and hobbies that make you beam-- that silently beg to be done on purpose.

Meaning is our friend, but it’s like that crappy friend that rarely goes out of her way to meet you. If we can’t do without meaning-- looking at you, Viktor Frankl-- then we’ll need to meet on her own terms.

3: It grows your ability to observe without judging.

To observe is to simply notice; to judge is to assess value. Sometimes these things dance together: they weave tapestries of repentance and growth, knowledge and wisdom, intelligence and love. Too often, judging masquerades as both and ends up doing neither.

Your mind and mine often serve as instruments of brilliant change, observing patterns in people and things and judging the difference between beautiful and bad. All too often mine’s a drunk high school debate runner-up on mission to haphazardly label everything as good, bad, or ugly. Lots of the bad and ugly labels are targeted at me.

Sit in silence long enough, and our minds-- weary from its reflexive calling to judge events, other, and ourselves the moment we experience them-- begin to simply observe them. The pendulum hasn’t switched to the other side; it’s stopped entirely. We relearn the art of observing without judging.

When we relearn to observe events without judging, I’m convinced we begin to pick up plots in our life, living and breathing plots taunting us to be the protagonist. The moment I’m writing this, a few events unfolding in life pop out, making me feel sad and powerless. The events seem to jeer with laughter, telling me how stupid and hapless I am. Sometimes, though, I get the hunch that the jeers are cheers, the laughter an invitation from Whimsy to let my helplessness move me to being helped. Silence teaches me the former is the doppelganger for which the latter is reality.

And when relearn to observe people without judging? We’ve hit the holy grail in life. Sometimes, I wonder if lust is just the diverse evil that happens after forsaking a sacred commitment to observe other persons for who they really are. Doing nothing, I wonder if love is just what happens when we’ve observed the beautiful in others and somehow gripped that even the ugliest things about us aren’t beyond redemption.

After all, we’re all just skin and soul, silently hoping to be experienced and understood on our own terms.


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#silence #creativity #beauty #marriage #reflections #ordinarylife