In Praise of Idle Moments


 The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams from Tim Kreider in “The Busy Trap”

It’s a Thursday morning and I am blurry with a post World Series hangover of sorts. For the many of you who are not from the United States, the World Series is an annual event crowning the baseball season. Among sports enthusiasts in the U.S. this is a Big Deal. And this year the team who came out shining is the Boston Red Sox. This is My Team. I am not a sports enthusiast, but one of the things I’ve done in recent years is to try to understand the excitement that baseball garners in this part of the world. Call it an anthropological study if you will. This team, whose home field is walking distance from where I live, was my maternal grandma’s favorite. I needed to understand something of the magic if I was to live here, just like I needed to understand the love of soccer in Egypt, or cricket in Pakistan. And a surprising thing has happened– one that has taught me some good lessons about living cross- culturally in my passport country. It turns out I like this game they call “baseball”! I’ll write more on that in a later post because I think there are some good lessons to be explored.

But for now I’m taking a break.
It turns out that my post from Tuesday on the security blanket of busy touched an unexpected nerve. The words “I’m so busy” are deeply ingrained in our vocabulary, more so our actions. My cousin, Judi, said this “It’s more than ingrained…it’s like it is revered, prized, valued.” 

But beyond the words is how embedded this is in our psyche, in the fabric of who we are and the damage this does to our health, our creative abilities, and our friendships.

CS Lewis says “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

I will be honest — I have lacked inspiration for just about everything lately. I am doing mediocre work at my day job, I don’t feel I have much to share in person, and I am struggling to find inspiration in writing. I have glorified busy and I am reaping the fruits.

Perhaps you feel the same.

I think I need some idle moments. In idle moments I can step back and “see the whole” not just the fragmented parts. In idle moments I can gain wisdom and a heart for people. In idle moments I can hear God.

So I’m going to give you a bit of space from my writing, and me some necessary space from my own voice, and I am going to idle. I am going to have some idle moments and dreams!

How about you? Do you need time to be idle in the best possible way? To read and dream, to hear the voice of God? 

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

Blogger’s Note:  Robynn’s post from Friday will be published as planned on Friday – and I will see you soon! Thank you so much for entering my world through reading and commenting. It is a gift.

9 thoughts on “In Praise of Idle Moments

  1. Beautifully said Marilyn – you are SO right. There are times we all need to step back from our culture of “busyness” and just breathe. Separate ourselves from the chaos and reconnect with what and who is important to us. All the best, Terri


  2. I hear you on this, Marilyn. Re-entry for us has been a long 2 years of confused relationships, heart searching and, I confess, whingeing. But through it all I have developed a new pattern for listening and resting and oddly enough it has to do with fragmented parts and seeing the whole picture: jigsaw puzzles. While there has been so much hurt and unnecessary turmoil in my mind, I sit with lit candles and music (or the shipping forecast on BBC) and quietly find the proper place for all the pieces. Rod often joins me, there is no need for conversation, and we enjoy the satisfaction of bringing order to something when it cannot be our world.
    There is ample room for God in this and over time I am seeing him bring people and events into my life at a pace I can handle.

    I will pray that you can find your space, the one where you can sit back and revel in the fact that you are in God’s lap and he is listening.


    1. I love this image Donna. I’m sorry for the agonies you’ve experienced as you re-engage this “home” turf of yours…but I’m glad you’ve found contemplation and piece and restoration in puzzles. What a sweet metaphor. Grace to you and Rod.


  3. Enjoy your idle moments, I am sure they are well deserved! I hope they allow you to recharge and find new inspiration. We’ll be waiting to read your lovely words whenever you write again :)


  4. I’ve been avoiding this issue…. the one about how being busy is an escape…. At the same time, took a day off from work last week (and I’m self- employed so there’s really no excuse for not doing that) and it was … great! I actually felt creative … when was the last time I felt that? Trying to begin to make a change by at least not saying “I wish I could xxx, but I don’t have the time.” I actually am feeling a change just from desisting from that constant answer to many things. Thank you for this confirming post. And this is so very related to spirituality in, or not in, our lives. For me at least…


  5. I love the image of a car idling —although not a great picture for a growing environmentalist– the engine is running, the potential for movement is there, the energy is moving through the machine but there’s no forward motion. Idle away Marilyn. Let the dreams and ideas and passions and thoughts buzz but whatever you do, Sweet Marilyn, don’t turn your engine off!


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