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001 - On Being Busy - Moral Letters for Modern Times

Do not call yourself busy. Busyness is the fate of those who have relinquished control over their daily lives.
Coastal cliffside with lighthouse in background - Moral Letters to Lucilius
Photo by James Bellerjeau

Greetings Deuteros!

Do not call yourself busy. Busyness is the fate of those who have relinquished control over their daily lives. They have ceded ground not honorably, like the battered general calling retreat to the troops after a hard fought battle. No, the busy today have put their fortune in the hands of strangers, and done so without a fight and often without a thought. If you do not maintain the strictest control over your calendar, like a miser clutching his last coin, you will find your ledger soon overflowing, but with obligations not credits.

Fear of missing out you say? Tell me, when did a mindless herd of cattle ever lead you to a destination you wanted to go to? You not only exhaust yourself trying to keep up with the herd, you end up bedraggled, dusty, and dung-riddled for your efforts. And no sooner has the lead cow paused than a random bull becomes the leader of the next charge.

Fear of becoming irrelevant you say? Show me a person who does not fear they are missing out, and I will show you a person who understands precisely the value of their time. I would rather hear a single person who says “No” calmly, than a hundred who vigorously cry out “Yes!” Time that you do not waste is a deposit in the bank account of your life. The sheep stuff their day with the filling but ultimately empty blandishments of modern media. The more generously you cut out their bleating, the more you will clear your schedule, not to mention your head.

Mind me well, though, the opposite of busyness is not idleness. Your harvest for tending the garden of your time is this: fertilizing space to think, ground on which you can grow healthy plans, and finally neat rows of crisp priorities. A truly effective person lavishes their time in thinking, planning, and prioritizing before they lift their first spadeful of dirt.

It’s the busy person who occupies themselves with doing. But doing without thinking is the fate of beasts of burden, not you. With apologies to the Goddess of Victory, don’t just do it!

Better an hour spent in quiet contemplation than a year mindlessly doing.

Be well.

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