Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Call it woolgathering, lollygagging, or just plain daydreaming, it’s something we don’t do often enough. Hardly surprising when we think back on the number of times we got our knuckles rapped in grade school for sitting and staring out the window on a nice spring day. Or the times the boss found us seemingly mesmerized by the blank wall in front of our desk and asked if we didn’t have anything better to do. We have been trained to think of it as wasted time, non-productive time.
And in today’s fast-paced world we need no knuckle rap or scowling boss – an external enviroment populated with smart phones, email, tablets, iPods, a perpetually-on television and/or radio ensures we rarely have any quiet time, time to sit back and think. It’s go, go, go all the time.
But the fact is this little guy has it right. It’s good for us to spend time with our heads above the clouds. Improved productivity, better overall health, enhanced memory, improved relationships, more creativity are but a few of the documented benefits that can arise from daydreaming.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to ‘the nothing box’. Mark Gungor is a marriage expert who has a hilarious take on men’s brains versus women’s brains, one of the basic tenets being that men’s brains contain a ‘nothing box’ where men’s thoughts typically go when fishing, for example. And while he plays on crass stereotypes and broad generalizations there is, in spite of what we’d like to think in a politically correct world, a nugget of truth in what he says. (Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29JPnJSmDs0)
But my take is slightly different. I don’t see it so much as an empty box, but more of an incubator of ideas, sort of a box containing a primordial ooze where random thoughts bubble to the surface. Most will burst and disappear into the ether without leaving an impression, but every so often one of those bubbles will contain a gem, a prize to be captured, cherished, and placed in its own box for a more detailed exploration at some later time. Would that same idea have surfaced while you were listening to AC-DC’s Thunderstruck? Or while watching episode 485 of CSI Miami? Probably not.
So go forth and gather wool – it’s good for you. And the next time you’re standing in the shower thinking about nothing in particular except perhaps that irritating ear worm you heard on the radio at breakfast and you get a sudden brainwave for a new project, a brilliant insight into the human condition, or finally recall what other roles that actor in last night’s movie played, just remember it’s all because you were spending some time in your nothing box.
(No sheep were harmed in the production of this post.)