It seems that most of us live our lives in the fast lane. We speed along passing others, while the countryside flies by in a blur. Oh, we've convinced ourselves that we're getting somewhere fast. But we forget that we're sharing the road with others. Many others, and we all seem to be headed in the same direction. This troubles us.
We know that we need to take an exit off this speedway. That slow, winding country road looks so inviting! All our creative senses yearn to go there and discover where it will take us. But we're afraid that others will continue in the fast lane and we'll never catch up.
How soon we forget. It's on those slower, quieter “country roads” where we enjoy margin and find creativity. Creativity, not unbridled speed, gives us our competitive edge.
“My Muse may be excused if she is silent henceforth. How can you expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down?” Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau was writing about two things. He wrote of the actual groves around Walden Pond being cut down for timber. But he was also referring to his days of idleness that were the wellspring of his creative thought.
“Many a forenoon,” he wrote, “have I stolen away, preferring to spend thus the most valued part of the day; for I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher’s desk.” Those are good words.
I can't tell you how many times I've been stumped by a problem or challenge. And having tried all other solutions, I finally break free and go for a walk. Now distanced from the problem, all becomes crystal clear and a solution presents itself. At other times, my discipline of getting away breeds all kinds of creative ideas. I'm convinced that none of those ideas would ever have come to me in that “box” that I call my office.
I refer to this practice as “constructive laziness.” Everyone should practice constructive laziness for these reasons:
- Quiets the mind. Living in the fast lane can be exhilarating. But it's all-consuming, frantic and frenetic. There's no time for creative thought there. Everything is moving too fast and there's too much noise. It's in quietness that we begin to reflect. In the stillness, we declutter our minds. The view becomes sharper and distractions fade away.
- Relieves anxiety. Often we have no idea how anxious and uptight we've become until we leave the fast lane. Only then do we realize how mentally taxing the pace has been. And on that lazy stroll among the trees, we breathe deeply and contentedly. In that solitude we feel our anxious thoughts melt away, making room for creativity.
- Stimulates creative thought. As we follow that pleasant route through the woods, the paths of our mind seem to open. Looking around us, all our senses are intoxicated with the beauty and scope of God's creation. He becomes our mentor. And creative thoughts begin to take root and sprout in our minds.
- Allows time to explore these thoughts. New creative thoughts are born in this quiet garden of our minds. As they emerge, we take time to consider each one. Some are weeds that we pluck and cast aside. But others we keep and nourish because they show promise of being fruitful.
- Enables us to capture those thoughts. Without constructive laziness, a creative thought may flit in like a little bird. We catch a glimpse of it, but it flies away before we know it. In contrast, taking time with our thoughts is like sitting on a park bench. Now the bird lands next to us and we study it, noting everything about it.
These are but the beginnings of what constructive laziness can offer you.
I marvel at Jesus Christ for many reasons. But consider this. In the most tumultuous three years of his life, He often took the time to retreat into nature alone. As I follow Him, I want to learn from Him in this practice as well. I believe we would all do well to spend more time being constructively lazy.
How do you practice constructive laziness? Where do you go? How often do you retreat?