Idle Ideals


Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.  I want to do nothing!  I want to be nothing! – Kelly Bundy

Jerry:  So what did you do last night?

Elaine:  Nothing.

Jerry:  I know ‘nothing’, but what did you actually do?

Elaine:  Literally nothing.  I sat in a chair and stared.

The above sample of Seinfeldian dialogue probably wasn’t often quoted at water coolers during the sitcom’s heyday, but it was a line that filled me with inordinate glee when I first heard it.  It was more than just a nod to the virtues of laziness – it was a much-needed clarification of what it truly means to do nothing.


What a beautiful, inspiring word.

I think that if there is indeed some sort of magic key to happiness, it lies in behaving according to your own natural desires as opposed to ideals – or, if you prefer, desires that you desire to possess due to their cultural popularity yet for some reason don’t ever become real heartfelt desires, as evidenced by your behavior to the contrary.   Forget about that shit.  It’s nothing more than the human equivalent of chasing your tail.  You cannot force yourself into acting and feeling like anything other than what you are.

Incredibly, we’ve been bombarded by such constant encouragement to aspire to the vague ideals of society for so long that many of us have no idea “who we are”.   Many of us even attempt to make an educated guess as to the type of person we’re “supposed to be”, never realizing that we are using collective standards to analyze a uniquely individual experience.  Also, we forget that fluid experience is all that we are and thus there is no “self” or soul necessary to explain or justify our actions.

But cutting through all of that noise, both internal and external, to reflect on your earliest, untainted desires is easier said than done.  Personally, the earliest memory I can conjure of a probable insight into my own basic nature occurred at about 5 years of age.  This is the age when most kids first entered kindergarten in the days before womb-to-daycare childhoods.  We had all just experienced the first five years of life in utter bliss, though we could only see this after we’d been cruelly thrust into a world of schedules and expectations and responsibilities, none of which we were consulted on, by the way.  The salad days of flopping on the couch watching The Electric Company were suddenly cast aside in favor of learning the pledge to the flag and lining up single file for milk.  This did not sit well with me at all.  Truth be told, it still doesn’t.

Thus, my childhood fantasy world was populated less by space battles and cowboy duels and athletic glory than it was by plotting to maximize my down time.  I would close my eyes and picture myself grabbing my pillow and walking out the front door with a flippant, “see ya later” to my puzzled parents as I embarked on a journey to find the perfect secluded spot where I could lay around like a lump, undisturbed and worry-free.  Then what, you ask?  What more do you need?  Pillow, lack of parental authority and quietude were sufficient to my boyhood mind.  I couldn’t imagine aspiring to more.

I still can’t.

I’m embarrassed to admit that at present, 48 years into this consciousness of fluid experience, I still haven’t figured out how to make do with the basic ingredients of my aspirational fantasy.  In order to do nothing and remain free from anxiety, I need to have a roof over my head, at the very least.  Granted, as roofs go, they don’t get much more modest than the one that keeps my noggin dry, but it still costs money to keep my head positioned beneath that roof and that necessitates that I go to work.

Granted, as jobs go, they don’t get much more rote and stress-free than the one I’ve got, but it still requires that I put out the effort to get out of bed five mornings a week and show my mug at the office.

So though I probably am behaving largely according to my true nature, it’s by necessity imperfect.  Were it otherwise, you’d be able to tell by the fact that my muscles would have atrophied long ago.  But they haven’t.  These words would not be appearing before your eyes were it not for the effort of my fingers and I’d appreciate it if you’d acknowledge the courageous self-sacrifice inherent in the composition of this post.

I am an observer.  I observe everything that my senses can glean, but without ostensible purpose.  Regardless, observation has taught me a few things.  It taught me that almost everything we do in life is an unnecessary over-complication.  It taught me that people in general are FAR too prone to boredom.  It taught me that approximately 90% of all conversation is meaningless noise and that the only way to find some relief from the cacophony is to avoid the act of speaking as much as possible.

Those I admire most are hobos and the hearing impaired.

This morning, a co-worker entered the office and said, “What did you do this weekend, Paul?”  I replied, “nothing”, as is my wont.  However, that was untrue.   “Nothing that ought to be of interest to you,” might have been more accurate, but think of how much time it would have taken to say all of those words as opposed to the one-word reply for which I opted?

But I’m working on it and I think I’m making some real headway.  There’s an impressively detailed depression developing on my sofa cushions that’s a veritable plaster cast replication of the ass-end of my supine body.  My antiquated twice-dropped-in-the-toilet flip phone still works perfectly fine due to the fact that I don’t really use it anymore.  It has dawned on me that when I pick up the phone and dial a number, frequently someone will pick up and then I’m stuck listening to this person speak at me about absolutely nothing for an extended period of time.  If I am successful in my goal, there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when that same co-worker mentioned above will ask me the same pedestrian Monday morning query but this time, when I say, “nothing”, it will literally mean that I sat in a chair and stared.

And if that sounds like a horribly boring way to spend a weekend, that might just mean you haven’t learned how to stop aspiring to other people’s ideals yet.  But if you attempt to force such laziness before fully embracing its subtle virtues, all you’ll be doing is embracing my ideals.  In an ideal world, every single one of us would be utterly free of ideals.  Then we could all get together, sit in chairs and stare.  The way life was meant to be.

10 thoughts on “Idle Ideals

    1. When I read your last post, the so-long-and-thanks… one, I thought “he totally gets it.” I was still sad that you wouldn’t write regularly, but I understood.

      Then again, it’s okay to write. I mean, birds sing, everyday. Why not write if you are a writer? You said that you would be switching to fiction. You can still write about yourself. By your own words, it’s all fiction after all.

      But, to be clear, I’m all for actively doing nothing.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. To mention the pain of being ‘cruelly thrust into a world of schedules and expectations and responsibilities.’
      I vaguely remember my preschool years, which is a shame, because they must have been fulfilling. But then, I do recall my first day at school and the talk with the school physiologist I had who expected me to now how to count. I remember disappointment and confusion.
      Anyway, I think my preschool days were ‘the high point of my day’ as Lester Burnham puts it nicely jerking off in the shower… ‘it’s all downhill from here (there).’
      I’m like Woody Allen, some of the best memories of my school years are playing hooky from school to learn about life by myself.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s hard to do nothing. A lot of people I know would go nuts if they had to do nothing. Number one, the demons get louder if you don’t stay mindlessly busy with stuff. Old guilt and thoughts about where you are in life and all sorts of things you try not to think about creep in.

    I think there’s a line in “Office Space” about how the protagonist wants to do nothing, too. Actually, there are a couple lines. It’s sort of his Holy Grail: the quest to do nothing in that film.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is my angry face.

    It’s not here because of you; you probably had nothing to do with what has transpired. Even if you did, I wouldn’t be angry with you. I’m very accepting of others transpirations.

    I had to Google “transpirations” because Google didn’t recognize the word “transpirations.” I think it means what I think it means.

    Regardless, I’m angry.

    Someone, this morning (or maybe last night, it’s early), “liked” something I said in response to something you said, back in January (very kind of you, person!) and it led me to you. I read the response (it was alright; I can do better), and then casually clicked your Home(y) button to remind myself how long it’d been since you posted anything.

    Guess what?

    You had posted something since the last time you posted something.

    TWO somethings, as a matter of fact. And, last I checked, two is two more than nothing.

    So, this is why I’m angry: you are not appearing in my Reader so I’m missing up-to-the-minute Paul. Not acceptable. Your nothings are too important to miss.

    As for this particular nothing, you’ve brought out some of my favorite memories. Like you, I didn’t want what came after 5. Like you, I hated the interruption in my routine. Unlike you, my routine involved getting back to four-color friends on newsprint pages and a roomful of small, plastic (fully poseable) figures of action. (Don’t call them dolls, mom!). In short, the stories in my brain. Which, at 5, were exactly the same stories as the ones in the four-color newsprint, only Tom-much better.

    In short, if you want to scroll down to here and not read all of ^ that, I missed you. I’m angry I missed you. I’m happy I found you again, from two weeks ago, and I’m hoping you regale me with more insightful nothing in the near future. I’ll be watching. I won’t be tardy again.

    Oh, and the line “Those I admire most are hobos and the hearing impaired” made me spit out coffee. You owe me a keyboard.

    Nah, don’t worry about it.

    It’s nothing. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tom! As your writing gets better and better and mine gets more and more pointless, you continue to be kind enough to allege otherwise. Not sure what the reader problem is, but I also don’t feel like my output these days necessarily deserves any fanfare. But I’d be honored to supply you with a new keyboard, if need be.

      Liked by 1 person

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