“…well I am the one who loves changing from nothing to one.”
―Leonard Cohen, “You Know Who I Am” (1969)
As it is with all actions worth pursuing, it takes practice to do nothing “productive” and to live meaningfully in the present—it takes years and decades of practice to become a master at it. It is a matter of stripping away all that is non-essential, a most difficult work, especially when so much screams essential. If it sounds counter-productive, it is, which is the point of this exercise.
All beginnings are difficult. I find it easier to pursue now that I no longer have a job, but I still have much work to do, to distill all the knowledge and information to an essential meaning, a philosophy or poetry of life. I have begun the process a couple of decades ago, and it has been interrupted at times by family and professional obligations, which are important contributions to understanding, but some of it is of course non-essential; so I expect it will take me another decade or two (if I happen to live that long) to arrive at a point of sufficient understanding and appreciation.
It takes serious effort to do nothing; it takes much hard work, which might explain why so many are deterred by it. Another reason why it is practiced by so few is that this is hard to measure by some known measure, notably finding the point when you have achieved a measure of success. What precisely and definitively is the something that can be produced out of nothing: Ex nihilo. Then what?
So, again, I must warn you in all earnestness that it’s not an easy endeavor or an undemanding exercise by any means. Some might even question one’s purpose in such a pursuit. My answer is that I am not sure, but I must find out. I know: hardly comforting. Even so, I do not have a timeline. It seems to me that inner peace, presence and happiness all work together in some unpredictable alchemy.
—Perry J. Greenbaum, “Notes from the Sixth Floor,” November 2016