17 August 2010

The Value of Nothing

First of all, apologies to Mr Raj Patel for stealing the title of his excellent book, which is on my to-read list, and which has nothing whatever to do with this post. It's just that it's too good a title to not use it for what I want to say.

We went camping on the weekend. There's nothing like a good camping trip for doing Nothing. Just sitting in a chair, with a cup of tea in hand, perhaps looking at the not-lit fire, listening to the chipmunk chattering in the underbrush, smelling that wonderfully spicy scent of the forest floor baking in the hot afternoon sun, like nature is preparing a batch of cinnamon buns. Watching said chipmunk scurrying out from said underbrush, rushing across the campsite, surreptitiously hopping on your picnic table and trying to steal a marshmallow from the bag where it is awaiting the evening's S'mores Toasting Feast. Doing Nothing. Why don't we do that more often?

Because, truth be told, there's no such thing as Nothing. We always do Something, even if it's watching little furry thieves snatch their overdose of sugar for the year (I wonder if the SPCA could get you for that? Luring with marshmallows. I can just see Chippy, once he's hooked, flogging his wares in the nearest dark forest alley: "Hey, you, want some snow? Three acorns, jus' for you!").

Doing Something. The question is just what that Something is. In our product-oriented society, sitting and listening to the forest is considered Nothing. And because it's Nothing, we feel guilty doing it, unless we're on a camping trip.

And that, really, is silly. The Nothing of this kind, it is Something. It feeds your soul. There are so many starving souls around, dying from lack of Nothing. Because you can't measure, weigh or count it, we don't realize we're missing it. Until we stop, and inhale the cinnamon scent of the forest floor, and feel it filling up the hollow in our soul.

Incidentally, if, on your next camping trip, you see a crazed chipmunk racing around the campsite desperately searching for something, with little flecks of white in the corners of his mouth, don't give in to him. He's already had more marshmallow this year than is good for him.


  1. Ah, the great pleasure to be found in doing nothing - I have spent many a fine afternoon, reclining on my couch and doing....nothing. It has truly been wonderful for my soul!!!

    Sheryl :)

  2. Amen to that! I completely concur! We somehow missed our annual camping trip which I love for exactly what you described.... ah nothing...

  3. Anonymous18/8/10 09:05

    I completely agree! We all need to slow down and appreciate every moment.

  4. I've decided that I need to learn to do Nothing in daily life, too. Even without chipmunks.

  5. Yes, but so much harder to do when there are things around that need doing... but when you are camping, it is just too bad, because you aren't there to do it...

  6. Angelika, hello, hello, how wonderful to find you here. I've missed reading your writing - missed your wisdom mixed with your wonderful sense of humour.

    We camp a lot but we don't too often do the "nothing" camping so when we do have that sort of weekend it always seems extra blissful. For me quiet, reflective time in nature is my best recharger. It fills me up in a way that nothing else can.

  7. Hi Heather! Lovely to "see" you here! And thank you for the compliment- much appreciated.