Nothing Man

Every once in a while I learn something new about myself. Sometimes these learning flashes will come to me while I am sitting at a bar having a drink or while on a mid-afternoon walk. My most recent learning flash came to me while sitting on a park bench underneath an old oak tree. The mid-afternoon sun wallowed in the sky and the heat was so intense that I was reluctant to ever leave the shade of the grand oak. So I sat there. I did not read, I did not listen to music. I just sat there with my eyes and ears open, thinking about my life. And then the flash came to me.

For most of my adult life I have yearned to be an author and a painter- a successful artist of some sort. The past ten years I have painted many paintings, written various things, and produced hundreds of drawings. But I have done nothing more than this. I have had no gallery shows, I have gotten nothing published in print and have done very little to advance my career as an artist. As much as I have wanted to be a working artist I have lacked the ambition needed to be successful in anything in this world (although if reading was a career I could have made a fortune by now). Making money from my art has never been the reason why I paint or write so having to market my work has always been difficult for me. And then on that park bench it came to me- what I really really enjoy doing is nothing at all.

What I mean by this is I enjoy the freedom to be. The freedom to wonder in the mid-afternoon sun. The freedom to sit on a park bench for as many hours as I need without having somewhere to go. I enjoy going for walks and not knowing where I will end up. I enjoy having nothing to do, doing nothing. Some may refer to this passion of mine as “bumming around,” and I would have to say that this is not an unfair judgment. In our current society being a bum has a negative connotation because it opposes the world of work that we have become so addicted to. Capitalism would fall apart if too many people were content doing nothing (sitting on a park bench) so the bum has been demonized as a failure, a lazy and shiftless person who seeks to live solely on the support of others. But a large part of me is a bum who does not want to have my feeling of freedom suffocated by work or a job (even sitting at my desk and writing can feel suffocating at times). The bum part of me just wants to loiter around, grow my hair long, be in a perpetual state of awe, read my books, feel the mid afternoon sun bake my flesh and enjoy the pleasures of being, doing nothing and going nowhere. Yes, this is what I enjoy most in life.

When I had this learning flash I had a realization that I had not had before. I am a nothing man. I did not feel any guilt for being a nothing man. Instead for the first time in my life I felt good about this- I wanted to own it with pride. I accepted this nothing man as a part of who I am and then I thought of ways that I could integrate this into my day-to-day reality. I realize that if a person wants to be successful at anything in life there is a certain amount of “sitting behind a desk and working that one has to do.” But maybe I can find the art in doing nothing (which is really doing something, but just not with the intention to work and generate profit). Maybe I can carry around a camera and a tape recorder and document the things I see, hear, smell and think while doing nothing. Maybe this is a way of making something out of doing nothing? Or maybe I could just let go of my ego and be content with just being, with not being ambitious and simply enjoy my life without the nagging desire to be anything? All of these thoughts and many more rushed into my head as I sat on the park bench, staring out into a large wide open grassy field with dried flowers lingering all around. I sat there for a few more minutes and then got up and continued on doing nothing with my day.

14 thoughts on “Nothing Man

  1. I like that; ‘learning flash’. I might have to borrow that 🙂 That’s exactly what it is!

    I understand enjoying freedom doing nothing. It’s probably why I’ve continued to have part-time jobs the past fews years; I like having parts of my day to do as I please and to not be (ie) chained to a desk. I keep telling myself I have to “grow up” and get a full-time job (not just because monetary living nearly demands it). But, I don’t want to ‘grow up’ (yet I’m creeping up to 35).

    You articulated very well your “status”. You’ve dissected what’s ‘normal’ or ‘normally viewed’ in society and how it actually *is*. I think that’s important.

    And you said the magic word… ego.

  2. I do wonder, what if a few being “Nothing Man(or Woman)” begins to have a cult following, would it then become the NORM?

    And now I find it difficult to Accept my need for Being. 😉

  3. Hi, I found your blog when searching for “Eddie Vedder”. Read your post from December 2007 and I am wondering: do you still feel the same about Eddie Vedder? I can relate to A LOT that you are writing about in your blog. Not only about Eddie Vedder, but a lot of other stuff too. I am a writer too. I have written two books, but haven´t had the courage to try getting them published yet. I think you are a great writer, and this blog is a book in itself! You have the talent. I will continue reading.

    Best wishes,
    Lisa (Sweden)

  4. Hello Lisa,

    I must say that I no longer feel as strongly about Eddie as I did when I wrote this post but deep down I do still long for the autonomy and recognition that being a rock icon brings. Plus getting to sing in front of thousands for my job would not be so bad. But all and all I have done a lot of work to except myself as I am and learn to love or enjoy my life as it is without longing or envy. Things are better for me now and I think it has something to do with not spending hours and hours watching videos of Eddie Vedder interviews and Pearl Jam concerts. Thanks for the kind comment about my blog- I really really appreciate the supportive words.

    1. Oh, that was really good to hear (about Eddie). I could relate to the longing and envy, but I am trying to accept myself too, and it is good to hear that you appreciate yourself and that you have come such a long way since then. It is something with that idol-thing that can make you feel less than you are. Since I commented on this post I read your post about facebook, and I have to ask you: are you still not on fb? What was it like to stop? I really appreciated this post, as I am thinking about quitting fb. I realize that I am addicted too, and when I thought about it, it felt as a great relief to quit. I, too, write down fb updates in advance, and it is keeping me from doing real writing and other creative things. And I always get frustrated when no one comments. I really appreciate your being honest in this blog, but I also laugh a lot too, and I recognize myself in a lot of things. Keep on writing, like I said, this is a great book in itself, you could take these pieces of writing and put them together in a book… The wedding ring story was SO good.

  5. I am still on facebook and I have fallen back into my old patterns (sigh). Every day I think of getting rid of my account in the same way that a drunk may think about quitting booze. It is a harmless distraction but I do realize the many hours that it subtracts from my life. Maybe I will try to abstain again some time soon- but it really appeals to my loner side. Oh but the times I was free from facebook are like bright memories in the front of my mind. Good times:)

    Thanks for being you and I really enjoy your comments. Makes me feel good about what I am doing here. Hope you are well over there on the other side of the globe- sending you my warm regards.

  6. It feels like nothing because society places value on profits and defines “something” that meets these ends. Profits are more than money, however. Nothing is really something, too, and maybe it’s the kind of profit that gives you internal reward, agreement with conscience, and recreates the energy. Maybe enjoying yourself is productive of health and happiness. The responsibilities that go with this commitment are equally real and involve choices toward goals and away from others. My two cents.

    1. Thanks Karie. I really like what you have written. Nothingness is a state of being just as somethingness is. You say it perfectly when you talk about the commitment to nothingness as equal to the commitment to being somebody. Each involves responsibility- however I can not help but think that the profits earned from nothingness are freedom, health, happiness, spaciousness and liberation. However, I need to be able to fully embrace my nothingness, accept it rather than feeling guilty because of it. Once I can do this than I will enjoy the profits that come from my labor.

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