Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Embrace aimlessness, suggests Josh Cohen, a psychoanalyst and professor of modern literary theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. In this piece which is a brief introduction to his upcoming book ‘Not Working: Why We Have to Stop’, Josh explores the paradoxical pleasures of inactivity. Josh starts with the typical schedule for the Christmas break where most of us tend to stuff in so much activity that we end up needing another holiday to recover. He extends this to normal everday life where unrelenting busyness pervades yet the culture looks down upon inactivity or idleness. Josh highlights the need to rekindle the dying art of doing nothing for it remains a key ingredient for imaginative freedom and creativity. Looking forward to carving out time for some daydreaming in 2019.
“The German-American psychologist Herbert J Freudenberger employed the term “burnout” in 1974 to describe the growing phenomenon of “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. Freudenberger observed workers drained of positive commitment to their own role and to those around them, running on empty and depleted of all but the most minimal internal resources. Burnout is the ultimate experience of that impossible bind: a yearning for a state of rest alongside the sense that it cannot be attained, a sense that some demand or anxiety or distraction won’t let us go.So how might we evade this fate, individually and collectively? This question seems especially important for our children, in whom anxiety disorders and feelings of academic and physical inadequacy are reportedly proliferating. If children are under perpetual pressure to achieve learning targets (just as their parents are cajoled into meeting productivity targets), the antidote is surely to cultivate in them — and even in ourselves — the capacity for aimlessness, for letting the mind wander without specific goal or purpose.”
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