Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Ode to Loafering: It's All we Really have Left

I don't know what I'm doing most of the time but still would consider myself "busy". Sometimes I'll be busy as I can't find my keys, or sometimes I'll be busy as I don't know where the pants are with all my "stuff" inside and thus am unable to leave the house securely. Sometimes I'll pace back and forth many times rather than get laundry together. I get real busy like. I can show you busy...

But perhaps in our world that... well... really needs a lot of work... we can acknowledge that much of what we are busy about is maybe not worth our raised stress level. This is what the wily, and appropriately aggressive Radio Host Tom Ashbrook explored in one of his pieces delightfully titled as "The Busy Trap" (might not be titled this...)on NPR's On Point. This was quite an illuminating piece that I think is important. 

(Photo: J. Costa)
Mr.  Ashbrook: More heroic than I'll ever be...
We're busy, but often it's not because we actually are. For whatever inane economic or social reason, sometimes  and sometimes with high frequency, we spend so much time saying, feeling and acting busy. I do this. It can cause us to lose sight of whats really important and also to tarnish much of our enjoyment. We also, and I also certainly, frequently do so overemphasize how important what tasks we need to get accomplished completed. We're unable to step back and say "hold off a bit". Society does this to us, especially Western society I think. This is noted by the two delightful Authors (one a Southerner) who conducts some thoughtful analysis facilitated effectively by Mr. Ashbrook into the nature of what they term as "Loafering".

Loafering refers to those instances where you might get lost in conversation with a friend and lose track of time; it's the time you spent the whole day gracefully fishing while maybe even sipping beer and maybe  not even catching that much but still enjoying the afternoon; it's those hours you "wasted" with friends just shooting the shit where nothing might have been concretely accomplished but you leave smiling. It's shirking responsibilities for some time to do things that you just enjoy and can be present in.  It's doing something that might be exploratory but certainly enjoyable that gives you space to be refreshed and ready for later challenges. It re-centers you in the moment; to the place and time that you currently inhabit, just to exist and enjoy. It can counterbalance this busy trap that we often can fall prey to. 

I got some loafers...

Loafering is crucial when possible I've come to realize. I really do think it gives you a  refreshing amount of space to just be; it helps you think of the journey as something as meaningful as the destination, and it can do a 180 on your stress level. It helps you enjoy with less, and appreciate what's actually around while potentially giving yourself the space to see and experience more of the actual world.

You could loafers here

My girlfriend has drastically helped me to loafer more. As we both enjoy the woods (and know a little ecology), we've  had times where we've just spent the whole morning exploring a pond, or open field and then maybe taking an hour to watch a dramatic sky pass overhead. She's good at loafering (potentially  due to her lack of native origin in the Boston Area). This has been important for both of us, but certainly for myself. I can be especially ineffective at being busy whereas Loafering... I can be good at this.

... or here...

This past weekend, I was insistent that I have  some time to Loafer  and was due to visit an old friend which was delightful. My friend pushed back the time in which we were to meet which made me decide to saunter over at a slower pace and enjoy some of the nuances of our Commonwealth. Mind you I ended up stuck in in the midst of rush hour traffic which isn't very conducive to loafering, but I eventually pulled over in an embankment and figured I could explore the woods while I waited out the rushed hour. This worked out nicely as I found some pretty spots to enjoy, and perhaps only got a slight amount of poison Ivy as I waded through wood land lots that weren't meant to be waded in. Eventually I found a delightful farm where they were selling plants at very reasonable prices. I was able enjoy the various offerings, discuss some nuances of botany with the owners  (at a slow and relaxed pace) and had a real period of mirth. Later I stopped at some parks in neighboring towns, continuing to amble and viewed memorials of sorts. Again, slowly, and without too much care for deadlines.

Definitely know how to Loafer.

The authors both do a nice job of noting the economics that are currently in play in that many people simply can't afford to loafer and need to be as busy as they are. I definitely concur with this. Our economic situation maybe absolutely necessitate a life of busy for millions of people in the. On top of this, once you have kids, the current nature of parenting and the innate responsibilities of rearing your offspring do take a toll on your time and can stack on the busy. Perhaps there are still ways to loafer, and still enjoy but I imagine at the very least it get's harder, and for some, it might not be an option.

I'd have a question about loafering with television, the internet and any technological 'what have yous'. I'm wondering if it would be cheating in some cases. These items are too automatically arousing. I would say loafering should refresh your systems (as does the delightful Souther Writer that articulates this concept). Often internet usage and video games are very fun and arousing, but I'm tired moreso after using them. More often then not, I'm kind of isolating myself with them and from the outside world certainly, but that might just be me. Maybe if you use the media as a tool to enhance your sociability with friends and loved ones, and are relaxed about it, it can still  count as loafering. Mind you, if I'm all about to be up in people's grill as "the loafer police", well what I twat I would be so who am to Judge.

Great way to loafer in one knew how which is impossible....

The concept of Flow comes to mind when I think of Loafering. The philosopher Czyksamahili (if I spelled this right without looking something up that might be the greatest accomplishment of my month of August), argued that we all want to maximize our time in this state of Flow. Flow occurs when we are hyper engaged with a task, project, craft or problem that we might be working through. It's that point when Musicians really click with their instrument or scientists become extremely focused with their current research. The state of flow means you are immersed in what you're doing, you're in state that allows you to produce as much as possible, you can learn and develop a great deal and it's a very fulfilling and important state that we want to maximize for ourselves and others. I do remember reading that Czykas..... whatever his name was argued that it requires active initiation; TV was cheating for example.

Just will never be able to say this man's last name

Anyways, it would be thought (well only by me maybe) that Loafering can help augment Flow, by returning you to a state where you are more presently engaged with your surrounding; where you've allowed yourself the refreshment of your cognitive faculties to then accomplish things more strenuous, and basically you're immersed not inside  your own world of stresses, concerns, internal monologues, but in one where you're engaged with the physical and social world around you. Let's loafer some...