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Make stillness cool again

“Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.”

-Ruth Krauss

I was out canooeing on a quiet lake the other day. The day was warm and the water was cheekily reflecting little blue dimples of the sky. I decided to stop paddling and just enjoy the moment. After a few minutes though a boat full of tourists on a cocktail cruise came by and I immediately felt the palpable urge to begin doing something again. Sitting in a canoe in the middle of the lake staring sightlessly into the distance was weird. Paddling a canoe was not. And now that there were people around I distinctly felt the urge to be doing the latter.

I embraced my inner weirdo and stayed how I was, but it made me think that our society has no concept or word for: taking a moment of stillness to enjoy the present.

Normally if we saw someone stop in the middle of a subway station to appreciate the roar of the train or the eclectic passengers we’d just think it was strange that they had suddenly paused with an odd half smile on their face to enjoy their surroundings.

Upon seeing a friend or colleague’s gaze unoccupied by any specific object of attention (such as the social default action for ‘I’ve got nothing to do right now’, the smartphone) the first response people usually have is to ask “is everything all right?”. As if any moment in which we aren’t actively “doing things” is wasted and a sign of inner turmoil. (What does this say about our society?)

Perhaps, though, if we had a word for “stillness in order to appreciate” that we could adopt, this practice might become more common and we would miss out a bit less on all the little wonders of our world.