Monday column: Savouring the pleasures of idleness

Opinion Sunday 07/January/2024 17:11 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: Savouring the pleasures of idleness

Doing nothing is not boredom but an art that can take you to the many paths of pleasures that you did not have time for them while you have been busy.

Idleness is not usually associated with a physical activity. But this is where many people are wrong. You do not need to take a single step to get into the world of adventures and many delights. Mental activities is better for our well-being.

It is when the mind can take us to the widest corners of the world without moving an inch from our favourite seats. It is not lazing around like many people would like us to think.

The activities of the mind served well the Omani legendary sailor Ahmad bin Majid in 1471 when he navigated in his ship from Oman to India and all the way to East and Central Africa. They say he first planned the whole epic trip in his mind before sailing.

I can imagine him sitting in his living room charting the sea routes in his mind for months before sailing the rough waters. But we don’t have to be legendary navigators to put our minds into top gear.  We see with our eyes and move with our feet and that is part of our physical routine.

However, when the mind charts each careful step, we move forward with a well executed plan.  

The Muslim mathematician Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi, who is credited to algebra, a branch of mathematics, went to formulate all the complex steps in his mind while he was sitting under the shade of his verandah in Baghdad. Both Bin Majid and Khwarizmi did not physically moved around when they revolutionized our world in their own respective fields.

This is in contrast with the army generals and dictators, where they have to send out soldiers on the field to do all the killings. Again, this also the notable difference between the two. The dictators use brutal physical force while the ‘intellectuals’ use the creativity of their minds. I am not trying to demean people who do manual work. They have no other alternative but to move on with their limitations. But they can defend themselves that the rest of us have different tasks in life.

When a friend saw me in a coffee shop typing away my work on a laptop, he said I needed to do something more ‘useful’ than sitting around. I smiled because I saw the lighter side of it. I did not take his remarks as offensive but well meant. To him, I am just a lazy person sitting on my backside doing nothing while he was moving around most of the day.

He could be right but later that evening, while I was sitting at the beach watching the waves rolling to the sands, I saw ants crawling on the wall of the embankment that separated the sea and the pavement.

So, I dropped the crumbs of the cake I was eating to them. They started eating the crumbs gratefully while I watched them.

Then a mischievous thought crossed my mind. I told myself, next time, when someone tells me if sitting around doing nothing is a waste of time, then I could tell him that at least I feed hungry ants when I laze around.