“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
No, it wasn’t some philosopher who said that. It was actually Winnie the Pooh.
Yes, Christopher Robin’s imaginary friend – the one who has taught us the power of simplicity in the complexity of life — that little honey bear said that.
When I first came across the recently released movie, Christopher Robin (2018), I didn’t expect much out of it — I definitely did not expect it to move me to tears and take me back to a place of childhood nostalgia — a halo of protection, familiarity, and abundant love.
That little bear has made me remember that life doesn’t have to be so complicated. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t have to be.
Think about it. Any given day — we are bombarded with stresses, of things that make life feel difficult. A rough commute, an awkward conversation, an unpleasant person. There are a thousand reasons to be frustrated with life. If you take an inventory of how often you snap at little things, or just feel “off,” you will notice just how much chaos there is.
If you’ve spent even 15 minutes with a 5 year-old, you see that they perceive and understand the world through a completely different lens. A much simpler one. They understand the face value of things and tend to not overthink as much as we do as adults. And at one point, we all saw life through those lenses — that’s why movies like Christopher Robin tap into our nostalgia, because they take us back to the days when life wasn’t so blurry.
But, what if — crazy thought here — we stepped back for a minute and enjoyed life for what it is? What if we tapped into our inner child in small, measured doses?
Christopher Robin gets so wrapped up in life and work that he forgets to have fun. He never does “nothing” because he is running from one responsibility to another. You may ask, not everyone has the luxury of doing nothing.
But here’s the thing. Doing nothing is not necessarily a literal activity — well it certainly can be — but here’s what I think Pooh means to say.
We are never truly stationary — we are always doing something, thinking, listening, observing, understanding, speaking, etc. Very normal, automatic things that don’t seem to mean much in and of themselves.
Yet, it’s this automatic reality we are engaged in that often lead us to unexpected discoveries.
People often talk about “eureka” moments that make them realize something spectacular. Well, the eureka moment is the result of listening, observing, and thinking — and when you combine the outcome of all those simultaneous processes, you get the eureka moment, which may lead you on the path of doing something amazing.
When I wake up in the morning and engage in my morning routine, I don’t try to think of much at all — but I’ll hear something, or see something, that’ll spark an entire idea, or activity for me.
When I’m around people, I listen to what they’re saying. I really listen, with an intent to understand their world. And more often than not, someone says something that births an amazing idea, a thought, a roadway to an avenue I didn’t see before. You can classify this as doing “nothing” because I’m not engaging in an activity that produces an immediate outcome, I’m simply absorbing.
Even now, I am sitting at the library, all my actual work for tomorrow is done, and in this moment of “doing nothing,” I thought of Winnie the Pooh, and the life lessons that this bear taught me — which propelled me for some reason to dig the web on philosophy, and then I started talking to a friend about a meaningful topic, and that friend spontaneously decided to join me at the library. My evening turned out to be rather pleasant, and it came out “doing nothing.”
I also took a stroll near my neighborhood the other day and I discovered an adorable chocolate store that made me feel like a kid again. Chimy bells rang when I opened the door, the enclosed space was decorated in beautiful turquoise and cream color — and the shop was filled with glittering ribbons that held together various assortments of truffels, caramels, barks, etc. The options were endless. I saw a child pulling his father’s sweater to drag him to show the chocolate he wanted to get. I don’t know why that made me so happy — perhaps because it reminded me of myself when I would do the same thing as a kid to my dad. Stores and the feelings they can evoke can take us back to that place Pooh talks about, and my discovery of it came out of “doing nothing.”
I definitely plan to visit that chocolate shop again.
In the midst of all chaos we are living with every day, we can always take a few minutes to ourselves and remember, “This moment doesn’t have to be so complicated. Why am I making it so?”
When you go through loss in life, whether a tangible or intangible loss, you realize that life is so transitory — that the moment of stress you are in right now will be gone eventually, and you begin to appreciate life for what it is now.
The anxiety of having the rug pulled under our feet is always there — growing up, my entire expatriate life was rooted upon that slippery rug. So, I began to appreciate every moment life presented to me, every person that came my way, every experience I got to be a part of.
Fully absorbing the moment without anxious dependence on the future is one of the hardest lessons in life, but it’s one worth committing to because it makes us love life for what it is right now.
“Your life is happening now, right in front of you,” as Evelyn says in Christopher Robin.
Life is suffering. That is a universal truth, and none of us can escape it — the greatest suffering that binds us all together, you could say, is death — as the saying goes, nobody gets out alive anyway.
If we know that life all suffering, then we know we can combat that suffering with the childish innocence that I believe exists in all of us. Behind that fear, ego, pride, is a child who wants to explore, play, and love.
Tap into your inner child — vision, daydream, smile, do something kind without an expectation for reciprocation, and see things for they are — not what they could be.
The silly old bear says it best — There’s always time for a smackeral of wonder.