GD Speaks

The Glorification of Busyness

The glorification of busynessConfession: These days, I sometimes feel guilty about not being busy. After a decade in corporate life, I occasionally lie when someone asks for time to meet – and I tell them we can meet next week, even when all of today lies before me like a blank canvas waiting to be painted.

I seem to be still holding on to the story that busyness equals importance. A ‘crazy busy’ person is in demand. A stressed person is handling important things. A person whose body is crying for attention is actually a martyr for a greater cause of financial profit. And all their ‘complaints’ about busyness are actually membership cards for the elite club of valuable people.

Recently, I met a friend in a beautiful café. While we spoke she was typing e-mails on her laptop and BBMing on her blackberry. I was amused and stopped speaking and watched her. It was almost a minute before she looked up and squinted, trying to recall what we were talking about: “…so you were saying?” I smiled, remembering the days I too pretended to be indispensible.

For some busyness appears to be a way to avoid dealing with the real issues – it doesn’t matter what they are busy with, as long as the mind is occupied till it’s too tired to think at night. Others live scared that if they stop, they will prove their uselessness. So it is glorified as ambition or drive when it is actually terror of facing oneself.

In essence, GD says, busyness is a way to avoid the Black Hole at the center of one’s being. That space which is the exact opposite of everything I try to project when I am trying to be the dynamic, ecstatic, efficient busy person. It is the repository of our sense of loneliness, meaninglessness, uselessness, depression and abandonment. It feels like death to face it because the mind says that once one lets go into it, one can never come out.  So we all spend our lives controlling it, keeping it at bay or running from it.

The beauty is that once you face it, you come to see that it doesn’t exist. The story of failure you were scared about was fuelled by the story of success you are chasing. When you give up one, the other falls away simultaneously. And in the absence of both, there is peace already waiting for you.

Picture used under Creative Commons License via Sean Dreilinger

19 thoughts on “The Glorification of Busyness”

  1. Brilliant article Aalif. As you say, the ego will avoid that black hole at all costs. That busy life let go of me long ago, and yes, we do notice people’s self importance once we’re not doing the same any more!!! Great read.

    1. Thanks Yaz… I read this amazing quote after I wrote the piece: “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

  2. Ahhhh. This was beautiful. I wonder if people who are so attached to their technologies, mobile and otherwise, get to hear the thoughts in their heads at all. I love my walk to work and back each day. My cellphone is never on unless it’s absolutely necessary. How much do people miss when they’re staring down at their phones? The world is passing by. Seasons are changing. New sounds, new smells. What a waste to miss them all.

    1. Wow – this is a post in itself… Beautifully and poetically written. Please do share more on this subject on your blog too… I think it’s so important. Busyness is a drug that a lot of people are adddicted to…

      1. Thank you for the lovely compliment! I’m most sad to see young people glued to their devices. I often wonder what their world view will be like if they never pay attention to the one going on around them.

  3. Brilliant once again Aalif . We chase things and accumulate only to find that we have to leave it all one day and no one knows when that day is ! we see this ,we know this yet we choose to ignore !

  4. I like the GD observation, ‘busyness is a way to avoid the Black Hole at the center of one’s being’. I used the word ‘busyness’ in my post this morning just after receiving yours! Reminds me of the David Loy sense of ‘lack’ arising from consciousness of a constructed self. And, as you say at the ending, once you stop being averse to it, the discomfort goes away
    Nice post!

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