Lately I feel like I’m always busy. I really shouldn’t complain because my time is mostly filled with things and people I love (alright, I’m not quite ready to drop the L bomb on my new job, but it seems fine so far). I do find that our society seems to respect and understand “busy” far more than it respects free time. In the last 10-ish months since I got back to the U.S., people have frequently asked me what I’m up to with my time. I would always feel slightly defensive when explaining that I’m “only” in school full time. No, I didn’t have a job. I simply spent around 40 hours a week (actually probably a lot more than that) going to classes and studying. I also spent a lot of time with family and friends, working out, reading, and doing whatever else struck my fancy. For some reason, I was always defensive about this. So what’s so wrong about valuing time that is not spent doing something “productive”?
One thing that I really learned to love about Ndjuka culture in Suriname was their view of the word ‘lazy’. When I first arrived in Suriname, villagers would frequently ask me if I was being lazy. I always got defensive about this and would explain that whatever I was doing was somehow productive. Our language and culture have a very negative connotation with the word ‘lazy’. Finally, I realized that my villagers were not using this word in a negative way at all, and it became my best friend. When a villager would stop by and ask me why she hadn’t seen me yet today, my response would be, “I’m so lazy today”. No questions asked, very respectable answer. Being lazy was a thing to be respected and valued.
It was very common in the heat of the afternoon to simply sit under a tree and just take in the breeze for an hour or so. Visiting with neighbors didn’t always mean talking or doing something, sometimes it just meant sitting in each others’ presence. I had an older couple who lived not too far from me who I always loved visiting. They always seemed to take turns with who would chat with me, and who would nap away our visit. When it was Baa Lene’s (the man) turn to chat with me, he would fill me in on the village and the world’s news. He had a radio and he listened to the news in Dutch. This is how I learned about many of the world’s big events, like the death of Bin Laden. When it was Saa Poli’s (the woman) turn to chat with me, she would pick my brain about life in the U.S. and generally just joke around with me. They were great people. Sometimes all three of us would just kind of nod off during my visit. Wow, this has gone on a tangent.
To get back to the point, I don’t know if it’s the way that our society is set up or if it’s simply our cultural values that dictates our use and views of time. On the one hand, I will admit that it is very difficult for people to get by financially without working their buts off. On the other hand, even when we are busy with keeping our families or just ourselves afloat, we always seem to pack in more obligations. Are we uncomfortable with just being?
In the Tao of Pooh, there is a part of the book that talks about the Bisy Backson. Christopher Robin leaves a note on his door that says, “Gon out Backson Bisy Backson, CR”. A bisy backson is somehow who is always busy busy busy, even when they are at rest they are busy. Sometimes I think this can be me. All this criticism includes myself, who can easily fall into this trap. I would like to channel the opposite of the Bisy Backson, Pooh. He just is. Even when he is at work, he is far from busy.