A Not-So-Radical Proposal for Your Lenten Season: Do Nothing | Jake Braithwaite, SJ
And so I’ve been very interested in a new book by Jenny Odell called How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. She describes a world where “every last minute” ends up “captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily.” But in the midst of push notifications and likes and friend requests, a “certain nervous feeling, of being overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought, lingers.”
Sounds like a book I should read. Adding it to my “books-to-read” list.
I didn’t solve everything in my strolling, but I started to notice some patterns. I was finally able to hear God’s voice because the noise was turned down. I couldn’t block it out with the distractions–parties and drinking and social media and to-do lists and podcasts and music and movies and shows and idle fretting about work—that were my preferred methods. Instead, I just had to be present to exactly what I was feeling at each moment. If I was sad, I just had to be sad for a bit. If I was excited, I just got to experience it rather than try to share it on an online profile. If I was worried, I lived through the worry instead of numbing it.
I experienced something similar when I started practicing digital minimalism. I even wrote it down in my journal. Without distractions, it was like all of a sudden I had all this time to think, to be present, to live in the moment, to hear God.
I encourage you this Lent to do nothing. Odell recognizes that “the pitfalls of the attention economy can’t just be avoided by logging off and refusing the influence of persuasive design techniques.” Instead, wander through your neighborhood. If you feel the urge to document the walk, don’t judge yourself but simply ask why. Am I posting to connect or am I posting to show off? Does the impulse stem from aliveness or from loneliness? Most importantly, create the space in your life where God’s voice won’t be drowned out by a thousand other things. You don’t need to optimize each moment. You don’t need to listen to a podcast while you walk to work. You don’t need to check emails while you work out. You don’t need to watch television while you eat dinner. Do nothing, or at least, do ONE thing.
With Lent fast approaching, this, doing nothing, seems like a good challenge to take on. On the surface it seems easy, to just do nothing. However, if I really think about it, intentionally doing nothing seems a lot harder than say, just reading a book or going for a walk or sitting down to listen to a podcast. Not even sure I'll be successful at it, but I'll give it a try.