Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Usefulness of Wasting Time

"I loaf and invite my soul.
I lean and loaf at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass."
-- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I'm fifty-one years old. At this age, if one has half of a brain, one finally realizes one has lived more life than what remains. It can be a chilling epiphany. But, one moves on with the "third act," as it were, because...what's the alternative?

At this point, with a new aim of creating a second/retirement career as a film and TV composer, I find myself approaching composition and "taking care of business" with a kind of intensity I have never really been known for. (Last year, I wrote sixty-five pieces of music. That's probably as much as I have written since I wrote my first piece when I was ten years old. You can clearly see the inverse proportions...) 

Some guys my age buy souped-up Ford Mustangs and crank up Journey's Greatest Hits, some double-down on their compositional efforts. 

No, I know it's not quite the same, but it is born of the same realization: time is running out. 

It's typical for people my age to look back and be mad about "all the time I wasted." I've felt that way, at times, but, in the end, I have decided I am not angry at Young Chris for "wasting time" because maybe what I was doing was actually useful -- even necessary. Maybe it was kind of an incubation period of the spirit; of the mind; of my creativity. Maybe "the child is the father of the man," after all, and all of that "time-wasting" happened in order to prepare me for the period of creativity and energy I am in now. Children learn from play; maybe young adults learn from loafing. 

I'm not, in any way, advocating peeing away one's time and there are many things I feel are a grand waste. One example is standing in a club with music that is so loud you can't talk to your friends for hours on end. I found that a waste of time when I was twenty, for the record, along with many other things. (And lawn-care. Lawn care is a waste of time, if you ask me.) 

My version of wasting time was sitting in bars with groups of friends, for hours on end, talking about interesting ideas; it was loafing and inviting my soul, Whitman-style, in a hammock in my yard, day after day in the summers; it was watching cartoons; it was watching movies; it was walking and holding hands and talking marathon sessions on the rotary phone with with girlfriends; it was staying up late and then sleeping until two o'clock in the afternoon; I was missing parties in order to read, sometimes three books at once -- especially during grad school.  

It is so easy to look back at all this and lament what I could have gotten done had I just applied myself more. Well, I would have produced more writing and more music; that's for sure. But how good would the work have been? Can a guy who has not "wasted" time with his friends and lovers and with his own thoughts write or compose anything truly moving to others?

Maybe it was all preparation for the real work; work that was, some day, to be based on a matured and experience-based life -- what I'm doing now? Well, you can decide that. But I do think sitting and talking and thinking and loving and dreaming are never a waste of time, so long as they come to action someday. 

These days, though I still like it, I'm not as enamored of sleep as I once was. These days, I compose every day, instead of putting it off for a thousand other things. These days, I schedule my TV watching and only do an hour a day; maybe a movie on the weekends. It's just that it is time to start burning the reserves of action I have in the old tank thanks to my lazy, loafing, fat-backing twenty-year-old self. 

And, you know what I still do? I still "waste" Sunday afternoons sitting on the couch and drinking coffee with my wife and talking. We've been known to sit from ten until three, chewing the proverbial fat. And it's never a waste. (Tons of our conversations have wound up here, in fact.) 

Maybe we humans just know what we need and we instinctually do it. But if we messed up, we messed up. Wiser men than I have pointed out that regret is the true waste of time. So why waste time regretting wasted time when that time wasted is not only not a waste but, just maybe, a necessary part of growing in to someone better? [Yeah, I'd read that again, too. That's some ugly writing, right there.]

Now, go forth and loaf! (And I will go forth and write music, submit music, think of a post for next week, work more on my upcoming literature podcast and on the podcast I have planned for Hats and Rabbits [you heard it here first] and work on the outline for an idea I had for a book [all while raising two boys, training two pups and preparing for a new year of teaching...) 

Or..maybe I'll just loaf today...

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