The Possession of Our Own Being

Il bel far niente. (the art of doing nothing)

Il bel far niente.
(the art of doing nothing)

There are days when I can’t face the thought of being home alone in my apartment, but it has nothing to do with being single. On these days, I feel agitated, as if there are countless things I should be doing, but I can’t seem to begin any of them. Nothing seems right. I elect to run errands–I find something to do outside my apartment and outside my own head (away from the things that call to me). I feel a moment’s reprieve from my agitation because while running errands I feel I am accomplishing something.

For nearly as long as I can remember I’ve had this feeling: “I should be doing something else entirely,” no matter what I am doing at any moment. This certainly keeps me busy, and usually leaves me with a an unsatisfied itch, even when I accomplish a multitude of tasks. The little things that come easily forward in my mind–the countless things I should be doing–are like “troubles” from Pandora’s box and I am swatting at them as I cross them off my daily list.

But they keep coming back! What would really bring me peace and joy remains ignored.

Thomas Merton wrote: There are times when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all, we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power. We must first recover the possession of our own being. No Man Is An Island (New York: New Directions, 1983).

What I’ve learned in the past year is that if I am going to survive, I’ll need to breathe, which means practicing the art of doing nothing sometimes. I’ve found my best ideas this way–they shyly come forward when I am quiet, and I love them!

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8 thoughts on “The Possession of Our Own Being

  1. I feel like you wrote this piece just for me! I’m shaking just a little;stunned by the relevance and resonance of these words.

    “Thomas Merton wrote: There are times when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all, we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power. We must first recover the possession of our own being. No Man Is An Island (New York: New Directions, 1983).” – sublime!! Where on earth did you find this?

    I’m really blown away. Thank you.

    Like

    1. Hi Joanne! I have been reading everything Thomas Merton wrote for a while because he was such a powerful thinker and writer–everything he wrote speaks to me (it sounds like this is true for you too). Someone wrote about him that he wrote in “paragraphs”; he designs and creates beautiful thoughts and encapsulates them into small paragraphs of truth.

      I got this particular quote from a book of his writings called, SEEDS. I really recommend the book. I’m new to putting my writing out in this way, through blog posts, but find it necessary as a way to get myself writing regularly again. Thank you so much for commenting and telling me that it meant something to you–that gives me a boost!

      Liked by 1 person

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