Doing NothingThursday, December 20, 2018
It is impossible for the man who does nothing to be happy.
El que nada no se ahoga.
Spanish maxim often repeated to me by my grandmother
Not too long ago I had a chat with one of my granddaughters at a Starbucks. Since I am an old man I think I may have an ability (not proven) of being able to hand out advice. I told her that there were two approaches to her life. One was to attempt to achieve happiness and the other contentment.
The difference, I told her, was that the first, happiness, was more difficult and far more stressful while the latter was simpler. I then asked her what she would eventually choose. I was happy to listen to her state, “Happiness.”
Today I asked Rosemary when she had her last day of work. She told me it was in 2007. This would mean that she has been retired now for almost 11 years. As a freelancer I had no abrupt cutting off date. It was slow and in the end when the Georgia Straight asked me if I would handle an assignment, I told them that I was through.
So my cameras sit in my little Kitsilano studio mostly not used and I putter in the garden. I cook for my Rosemary and scan my roses. I sit in front of this monitor and write a blog. I have written now 4645 blogs. Many are quite long. A recent one on Holden Caulfield’s Central Park Lake ducks had someone write, “Nice picture.”
As a freelance magazine photographer I used to compete with writers for space. I was there one day when Vancouver Magazine art director Chris Dahl went to editor Mac Parry and told him, “Alex took a nice shot and I want to use it as a double-page spread. Can you axe some of Ben Metcalf’s words?” Obviously I did not particularly care what happened to Metcalf’s fine essay. My photograph was going to run big.
All that changed the moment I began to write stories to which I also took pictures. Then I became ambivalent.
With my blog after so many of them I believe I may have reached a point where my writing may be at least seen as efficient. And yet not too many of my blogs ever get any opinions on the thoughts or opinions being stated. Perhaps there is no time for reading and just looking and liking a photograph is all but sufficient. But I must add here that my original blog gave me the opportunity to accept comments. I rapidly found out that there were too many people out there with plenty of time to write quite offensive comments.
In the last month I have been hit by terrible ennui with a touch of weltzchmerz. My grandmother would have instantly told me, “Ante pereza, diligencia.” This means that you must counter laziness with diligence. Or she would have said, “El que nada no se ahoga.” This translates as, “He who swims does not drown,” but there is a curious play of words in that nada not only means swim but also nothing.
These days I wake up and have breakfast in bed with Rosemary, the New York Times and our two cats Niño and Niña. I cook lunch/dinner and we may go out shopping at Safeway or these days those last Christmas gifts. By 6 it’s Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Then its bed with a novel or short stories.
Days zip by like an express train at the station it does not stop.
I want to quit writing these. But if I do there will even be less purpose for the day. What then?
There are the distractions of planning a trip or the problem of getting someone to fix our kitchen after last month’s leak. There is the buying of the ingredients for the dessert we must make for this year’s first, Chrismas Eve not at our home, but at Hilary’s in Burnaby.
And before we know it, 2019 will be here. What then? How would I have ever suspected that life without stress would be stressful?
I wish my granddaughter would come to me and ask me, “Do you want to be happy or is being content good enough for you?”