There’s a lot of chatter now about “sitting it out” these days.
But I’ve decided to defy this notion. It should not be encouraged. We’re told and tell ourselves that by simply getting through this, we’re doing well, but it’s been a year. For those receiving the PUP, a year of no work and loss of identity has occurred, and for many there are no hobbies or challenges.
Procrastination is not helpful to humans. Though etymologically it is derived from the Latin verb ‘procrastinare’ – to put off till tomorrow – in ancient Greek it hails from the word ‘akrasia,’ which means doing something against our better judgment.
Dr Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary and author of “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done,” calls it ‘self harm.’
Sure you can watch Netflix, but you also can tap into a wealth of information via books or the internet and use this time to intellectually eat spinach and learn something new.
We have free tuition at our fingertips. We can learn anything from ‘how to herd Tibetan yak’ to karate, piano or photography at the touch of a button, and yet, most people don’t care to use it for extra curricular purposes.
Social media, annoying kids Barbie videos on YouTube, conspiracy theories and bad news makes up a regular daily intake. When describing the internet, David Bowie described called it ‘an alien lifeform’ in a now famous Jeremy Paxman interview in 2000. Despite Paxman’s protestations, he said it was ‘unimaginable, exhilarating’ and ‘terrifying at the same time.”
With that in mind, I decided to learn the Napali National Anthem. I’m honouring the ten brave men who summited K2 in January- a winter first. If you’re into mountaineering as I am, it’s the last and desired prize in the world of Alpinism. I spent December and January following their fortunes as they defied ice falls, dangerous seracs, blistering cold and destructive gale force winds. The summit video of the men, lead by erstwhile Ghurka soldier Nirmal Purja, holding hands and singing their anthem was the highlight of my year thus far. So I shall learn the anthem, and perhaps some Nepalese for my next trip. You can do that on the internet rather than stare at walls.
It’s my equivalent of Bill Gates ‘think week’ where he retreats to his cabin for some brain optimisation by finding ways to lift billions out of poverty, while simultaneously figuring out the finer intricacies of fusing advanced reactors with isotopic applications and nuclear technology to save the world.
Due to their ridiculous wealth, very successful people are targets of mistrust-and often rightly so, but they certainly know how to master time better than we do.I am often left wondering how they fit it all in.
Besides being inspired by Mr Purja, I’ve also been emboldened by Roald Dahl, who wrote his books in his garden shed in Buckinghamshire with nothing but an Anglepoise lamp, a paraffin heater and cigarettes for company. He sat there each day for many hours, letting his imagination run wild, with a blanket over his lap.
If I had his discipline, I could master the art of post processing photos like Michaelangelo in the morning and translate Ulysses into Sanskrit in the afternoon. Though I’ve taken numerous online courses in photography and am currently doing an MsC Masters in Science, I could do more.
At the risk of sounding like Tony Robinson, ‘brain power is nothing without will power’.
In Hollywood, it’s a well versed opinion that stars stay the age they became famous at. This might explain Michael Jackson’s much maligned behaviour or why we still think Britney Spears is a teenager. We’ve adopted this strategy for Covid-19 times too. Collectively we’ve stagnated mentally and physically, while our bodies age.
We’ve missed a year. We’ve missed milestones from festivals to holidays to time with friends. But a year is a long time to just write off. We humans are prone to waiting for the weekend, the wedding, the holiday or retirement, but we really shouldn’t.
Rather than listen to Covid-19 speak, I’ll be taking more inspiration from the likes of Mr Purja in managing my most precious commodity for something useful.
As Miles Davis once said; “Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”