新东方英语2020-10-18 15:15:06















The Lost Art of Doing Nothing

By Christian Williams

Recently, while eating lunch by myself at a local diner, I realized something that genuinely bothered me: I’m losing the ability to sit and do nothing. Where I used to be able to sit contently and simply daydream or observe my surroundings, I now feel anxious, restless, and awkward if I’m sitting alone with nothing specific for my hands or brain to do.


It didn’t take me long to figure out why. Looking around at the other solo diners that day, I noticed a common denominator (共同点): the smart phone. With sandwiches in one hand and thumbs scrolling through Facebook in the other, we all seemed incapable of disconnecting from our phones, even for a 15-minute lunch. That’s when it dawned on (被领悟) me that it’s entirely possible the most damaging effect of technology’s integration into our daily lives is that it’s replacing something many people have never thought was worth doing—sitting still and simply letting your mind wander.


As soon as I figured out what was going on, I put my phone away. But that’s when the awkwardness set in. If you want to feel out of place in a public setting these days, just start staring off into space or watching people as they walk by. Do it long enough and someone is liable to walk up and ask you if you’re feeling OK. That’s because we’re so accustomed to seeing people tethered (将……拴到) to their smart phones—it’s the new normal. If you’re not killing time with your face fused to a screen, then you’re the weird one in the room.


Of course, I’m not the first person to notice how technological connectivity is making it easier to disconnect from ourselves and each other in myriad (各种各样的) ways. Late last year, comedian Louis C. K. (美国脱口秀主持人) shared his hatred for cell phones on Conan (美国一档脱口秀节目《柯南秀》), and observed how we use technology these days to distract us from thinking about the depressing aspects of life. As he points out, taking on those thoughts head on is the only way to defuse (化解) them of their explosive potential.

与技术的紧密联系使人们更容易以各种各样的方式同自我以及同彼此分隔开来。当然,我并不是第一个注意到这个问题的人。去年年末(编注:英文原文发表于2014年9月),喜剧演员路易斯·C. K.在《柯南秀》上表达了他对手机的憎恶,并说我们如今是在利用技术来转移注意力,使自己不去想生活中令人沮丧的方面。正如他所指出的,迎面接受那些想法才是化解其潜在爆发可能的唯一途径。

My concern is similar to his, but with a twist. I worry that the more dependent we become on technology to help us pass idle time, the less likely we’ll be to allow our minds to wander in positive ways. It’s already become commonplace for parents to hand their kids an iPhone when they’re restless in the backseat or complaining of boredom. While I recognize the logic-enhancing and hand/eye coordination benefits of video games in young people, I can’t help but wonder how that constant stimulation is taking away opportunities for them to expand their imaginations, creativity, and overall mindfulness.


I’m noticing it in older generations, too. Just the other day, I witnessed a woman walking outside on a beautiful morning with her head down, reading a Kindle. Meanwhile, the natural beauty of her surroundings was going by unnoticed. While it’s true that she was engaging her imagination through the book, her brain was missing out on a different kind of stimulation—the kind you can only get when you allow yourself to truly appreciate the natural world we’re all apart of. And lest you think stopping to smell the roses or listening to the birds sing isn’t all that important, consider that establishing a true and lasting connection to nature may be the only way we’ll be able to shake society’s general apathy toward climate change and make the real changes necessary to curb its impact.


Which brings me to my favorite argument for why we need to spend more time staring into space rather than into a screen: How else can we encourage the cutting-edge ideas, innovations, and solutions that only seem to pop into one’s mind when it’s disengaged from a specific task and allowed to wander? I recently read Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which is a fascinating rundown (详细情况) of the work habits of 161 of history’s greatest creative thinkers from Matisse  and Mahler  to Freud and Einstein. What stood out to me by the end was how many of them took time out of their busy days to take a walk or just sit and seemingly do nothing. Who knows how many world-changing ideas first made themselves apparent during those daily moments of stillness and contemplation? It suggested to me that what we consider “downtime” may actually be the access point to a higher plane of thinking—one that I’m hoping to find my way back into now that I’ve opened my eyes again to the world that exists outside of the phone in my pocket.



Matisse:即亨利·马蒂斯(Henri Matisse, 1869~1954),法国著名画家,野兽派创始人和代表,以使用鲜明、大胆的色彩著称。

Mahler:即古斯塔夫·马勒(Gustav Mahler, 1860~1911),奥地利作曲家及指挥家,代表作有交响乐《巨人》《复活》《大地之歌》等。


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