The other day I had a person warn me again of the dangers of this cult that keeps popping up in my social media feeds and circulates every few months. This cult steals your identity, changes your brain chemistry, it makes you do things that you don't really want to do. It was exposed from one article published in a fairly reputable publication, and like all things on the interwebs, where there is one successful post suddenly there are about 42,600 results (You may think I am exaggerating that number, but I’m not- that is the actual Google search hits for this mysterious quasi-religious order).
More scarily it is stated that we may all have fallen victim of this cult. Anyone in the modern world has had this leak into their lives and the 42,000 authors tell us, we may not even know it. Authors warn us that it gives us false status, and uses hyperbolic special language, they say it makes us unwell mentally and physically, they say it propagates through devices and social media, it infiltrates our families, our jobs, they say it breaks down our relationships and isolates and annoys others. And if we have fallen prey to this cult they tell us to shut the hell up about it, no one cares, and we have done it to ourselves.
Thank goodness with every one of those articles comes the author's key to the prison of this dangerous ideology, this cult of busyness.
I call bullsh*t.
I hear this quasi-statistical bullsh*t about how we are addicted to busyness all the time. We are made to feel guilty if we say we are busy. People often question our choices. I have personally heard these questions, over beers, in interviews, and from colleagues:
1. You must have no life, is all you do work?
2. You do so much, when do you sleep?
3. How do you do all the things that you do?
4. You spend so much time on social media and 'education'. You need to be more balanced. Are you happy?
For a long time I have had canned, but honest, responses to these statements and questions.
1. My work is my life. Like Bert Jacobs says, Do what you like, and like what you do.
2. I sleep when I am tired.
3. I don't watch TV. I feel it is a time killer and while others watch 2-3 hours, I am using that time on writing or connecting or creating.
4. Who said happiness was the ultimate goal?
Currently, I am seeing an increasing culture of guilt and judgment about how we run our lives. That guilt and judgment swings from one pendulum point to the other, and all that rocking makes me a bit motion sick.
However, like a good teacher researcher I had to detract my initial BS statement when I realized I couldn't pass judgment on this cult that I had supposedly fallen prey to, until I collected data. So for the first time in 17 years, I signed up for Netflix and started watching TV again. I blew through Penny Dreadful in a weekend, and Z Nation, and the Walking Dead, I struggled through the repetitiveness of DareDevil and Gotham. I found myself so bored at times, but still I took the time to "switch off" in a culturally acceptable way (after-all, I read books voraciously, am a redditor who watches waaaay too many cat videos, I am on Twitterchats most nights, I am an artist and an author of children's books but those are looked at as an extension of my busy work life in the critical narrative I have encountered). A positive outcome of my new found TV hobby was that I finally knew the characters and plot lines that colleagues chatted about, but I also found myself awash in weirdly obnoxious product placements and obvious political subtexts that made me uncomfortable. When I went home to Canada last year I even became so confused and mesmerized by commercials that at one point, I distinctly remember thinking, "You know, I really could use a Swiffer."
This month I am ending my Netflix subscription. TV doesn't work for me. That's not a judgement on those who watch it, but rather a reflection on how I operate in the world. I haven't blogged in months, I haven't read the educational articles that push me to become a better practitioner, I haven't taken the time to paint that picture that is rolling around in the back of my head, I haven't connected with others on Twitterchats, I haven't helped or contributed, I have merely consumed content that was created for me. That is not my purpose. That is not what works for me in the short time I have been gifted to be on this planet.
What does that mean for the person who believes that shutting off and "binge-watching" a series is a good use of time and a counter-culture to the cult of busy. Perhaps. After all, why do we all have to be so judgey?
But when I examined and reflected on my own experiences it was clear I had quickly slid into a new paradigm when I shunned the cult of busyness.. I just replaced it with the cult of mediocrity. I took the advice to be "more balanced" and adopted the idea of balance from others, I tried to view my practice as only a job- switch on at 7:10 AM switch off at 3:40 PM. I arrived at work to clock in and clocked out at exactly my contracted hours. I actively attempted to not think of innovative practice or how it could benefit students outside of campus. I cut out helping or connecting with others in the social sphere for educational purposes during my so called 'free time'. I separated work and life, because over 42,000 articles can't be wrong. Can they?
My findings were these:
So I have re-crafted my answers:
1. My work is driven by social purpose. This is true for my teaching and my company. My life is full and busy because I believe in what I do and love every moment of it. My busyness is not a mirror to your life, but a choice I make in the way I live mine.
2. Time and energy are different for every human, and every living thing.
3. I am motivated by my purpose. My purpose is to help make positive change in the world. I do everything that I do, because I am energized by my purpose.
4. I do many things. I run, write, draw, read, make, tinker, explore and try to be present in each of those pursuits. Perhaps, what I feel is pain when I run, or confusion as I read, or dissonance while I make, or frustration as I draw, or happiness when I teach- "happiness" is one cookie in the cookie jar of human emotion, and I don't want to eat the same cookie for the rest of my life. My ultimate goal is not happiness, or the pursuit of it, but mindfulness in the moment, whatever that moment might be.
These answers are NOT keys to the prisons of worship we construct, even if it may read that I have presented it that way. More, they are a collection of realizations, synthesized into the knowledge that words like happiness, balance, purpose and busy are individually defined and even 42,600 articles explaining them, may not be the right fit for you.