Contemplation vs. distraction

CC0 Massimo Mancini (via Unsplash)

One of my favourite newsletters is that which hits my inbox from Christian Payne (a.k.a. Documentally every week. I have to admit to sneaking a peek at each issue of Backchannel while on hiatus…

In the most recent issue, he states eloquently something I’ve certainly felt since becoming self-employed:

I’m lucky to have my office at home and yet it’s hard to differentiate work and playtime. The smart will only work when paid to work. The rest of their time can be put aside for thought.

If I’m not being paid to work, I can easily find the time to work towards the paid work. Workshop preparation and free consultation can eat into the time where I’d like to be just sitting and thinking.

I’m beginning to crave the space to be creative. Not seen much of my shed and I’m in need of some ‘fertile solitude’.

Not just the snatched moments around midnight when everyone else is in bed. For me there has to be a balance between solitude and communion. Time for contemplation and creation.

I’ve been pretty good at putting the ‘instruments of distraction’ aside. German philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote that in a capitalist society contemplation was replaced by distraction. I’ve a feeling more than a few people will be redressing their relationships with their devices in the coming year.

Thinking time is vital. To organise, create, reflect. To ask yourself questions. I’m currently pondering what part of my job I really enjoyed doing this year. Is this something I should develop for next year, or is there something new I’d like to try?

As I’m writing this I’m pausing regularly for thought. I can hear a wood pigeon walking on my roof. Two finches fighting over the best spot on the bird feeder. This moment, this week, sits at the end of one imaginary block of time and the beginning of a new one. Time to sigh and take a long deep breath.

I’m on a bit of a mission in 2017 to remove all ‘busy work’ from my life — particularly as so much of it is self-inflicted. And I’m going to make sure that I have that ‘Doug day’ I promised myself every week, as it began to slide a bit towards the end of last year…

Image CC0 Massimo Mancini