‘Doing nothing can mean a lot’

Gerhard Hormann thinks we should spend more time doing nothing. In The New Doing Nothing (Het Nieuwe Nietsdoen) available only in Dutch for now, the journalist writes of a growing need for more free time. His ideal life consists of a simple house, on a lake, with a record player and a vegetable garden.
Wont doing nothing make you deeply unhappy?
‘You might think of it like doing a crossword puzzle behind the geraniums. But doing nothing can mean a whole lot more, for instance working in your garden all weekend or giving your smartphone the day off. It can be wonderful to just ride your bike without listening to music, or to just take the slow lane with your car and not be in a hurry to get where you’re going. Truly doing nothing – maybe only while mediating or yoga, but even then you are still involved in something. We should really slow down on the multitasking.’
What is gained by doing nothing?
‘It brings a greater work-life balance. My goal is a switched workweek; work two days and have five days off. Or like the American economist Scott Nearing proposes: work four hours a day, relax for four hours, and spend four hours contributing to society, such as caring for someone else. The way we work now causes us to feel far too much stress.’
If everyone only worked four hours a day, wont the economy collapse?
‘Indeed, the current economy can’t be maintained and society will need to be structured differently. That strikes me as a good thing! The consumer society and an economy solely focused on growth: that is a dead end road for the planet and for all of us. I don’t have a ready made solution for how it should look, but there has to be a switch to a simpler way of living.’
Is that even realistic? Dont we humans always strive toward progress?
‘Okay, not everyone is ready. And the problem is that it is in our nature to always want more than our neighbor. But I believe there is a basis for change. More and more people, especially the younger generations, have a need for better balance. They also for instance consider it more natural to divide work equally between men and women, and derive less status from car-ownership. So it can be different.’

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