I am not an ambitious man. Under motivated is an adjective I have often heard used to describe me. I have a tendency to dream of fame and fortune but I do little to make my dreams a reality. I suffer from a particular kind of congenital laziness that seems to fill me with sloth and despair. Now do not get me wrong- I am a man who is happy to be alive. A bit addicted to my melancholy, sure (I am working on this in therapy) but I see the beauty in every moment that I am alive. Maybe this is my problem- too much attention paid to being alive and not enough motivation to get things done. If I could spend my days sitting in a chair doing nothing and have checks show up in the mail- I would choose this reality, but since this is not the case I feel the constant pressure to get things done.
Of course I do everything I can to resist this pressure. I drink beer, read novels, write short stories that no one reads, eat, ride my bike, meditate, go for walks, paint and recently I have one more reason to get nothing done. My wife hung a hammock in the back yard. It is a purple hammock made out of thick hemp string. When you rest in this hammock it embraces your body with the comfort of a womb. This hammock is a universe unto itself that makes you feel like you have everything you need. It sucks you in until you fall asleep and it will not let you go until you are forced to come out. The hammock is tied between two trees and has a constant gentle sway, induced by the wind funneling through the branches. While swaying in the hammock I am reminded of being gently rocked to sleep in the tranquility of my mothers arms. Since my wife hung the hammock a week ago it has been impossible for me to get anything done. No reading, writing, painting or looking for work. I spend my days dangling in space between two trees, swaying to and fro, dreaming and thinking- while the world seems to pass on by.
I have been unemployed for two weeks. I left my job as a teacher when I lost interest. The problem with me is that I do not know what it is that I am interested in. I enjoy being drunk more than I enjoy being sober. I prefer sleep to the waking life and I almost always spend my waking days thinking about food, sleep and what it is that I have to do. This nagging drive to get things done, to be all that I can be will not leave me alone and the only defense I have is to do nothing at all. I do not know if this is an American affliction, my jewish upbringing with heavy expectations or my own inability to be present with myself. Whatever the culprit may be- it seems as if the hammock has become the only way for me to break free. I have tests to take, jobs to find, money to make and a marriage to save- but none of these things mean a thing to me when I am swinging free beneath the trees.
Last night I decided to sleep in the hammock. My wife was a bit perturbed that I spend more time in the hammock than I do with her. Lately she has thrown upon me the Puritan work ethic of “a man has got to get things done, work by the sweat of his brow all the days of his life.” I brush this logic off and spend my days sleeping in the sun. “The world is on the brink of collapse and I just want to enjoy my self- free from worry. Just think how much better off the world would be if people were as unambitous as me,” I tell her. Spending the night in the hammock seemed to represent for my wife a final turning away from our marriage and my responsibilities as a husband- but for me it just was the impulse of a man wanting to be free. I wanted to sleep in the quiet and ordered nature of my back yard, fall asleep to the flickering lights of the cosmos above- and none of this had anything to do with a desire not to be man or husband.
The night was warm and I needed no blankets. As I swayed in the serenity of the hammock I watched a sky filled with shooting stars. I imagined eternity and how insignificant I was in the larger scheme of things and for once felt no fear. My life’s ambitions seemed to fade away from me and I was able to sway back and forth between the trees and experience what it feels like to be free. Most of my days can be filled with terrible thoughts: You are almost forty years old and have no idea what you are going to do with your life, you need to write the great American novel now or never, you are getting old and you are running out of money and terrified that you can not afford the necessities of life and will never find a decent job or a publisher. Last night, for a brief moment in time I was free– I had mastered the fine art of doing nothing. Man, hammock and nature as one. I do not think I have ever slept so well.
This morning I arrived back home from my walk to find the hammock gone. You can imagine my surprise and mortification- especially after spending a perfect evening in the hammock like I did the night before. There was no question in my mind that my wife had taken the hammock down. When I immediately confronted her dripping with the sweat that I accumulated from my walk, she said, “don’t even think about it.” “Don’t even think about what?” I asked with a defensive tone. Who was she to think that she was so superior that she could read my own mind? “Asking for the hammock back,” she replied while digging a hole for where she was going to plant a lavender bush. “I have hidden the hammock and will not tell you where it is until you have gotten a job.” “A job!” I said with the frustration of a man that does not feel recognized for all the work he does. I could not expect my wife to understand that doing nothing, in our modern world, was an art form that took work. I could also not expect her to understand that even though I made no money from my art and I live in a suburban neighborhood- that she was living with one of the greatest artists alive. Instead, I had to suck it up, remain humble and accept that my life had just changed when she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “that fucking hammock is just one more reason for you to get nothing done!”