Be Unproductive

Food for Thought

My wife started taking a ceramics class last year, and it’s been nice to be able to request what I want. Ceramic classes appear to be popular these days, and I can see why. Since our work is increasingly computerized, we miss making things with our hands. You can’t get more “hands-on” than ceramics. And, a stark contrast to the sterile world of computers, you can get quite dirty while “throwing” ceramics. It looks fun to me too.

These days, the leading cause of anxiety for many of us is efficiency. If we take too long to do anything, we begin to feel anxious because we think we should be making better use of time. In today’s world of hyper-efficiency, time management is the only way to get ahead, which means inefficiency is how we are left behind. Our anxiety knows it.

If we had been born before the Industrial Revolution, we could have enjoyed making ceramics and made a living from it. Today, this is not an option. The machines eliminated that possibility. If you spend a few hours making a bowl, the price would have to be $100 or more, accounting for the material, equipment, and other overhead costs of running a business. Most ceramic artists are happy to sell their work at cost.

When we value efficiency, we focus only on the result or the destination. We cannot choose a process because the result dictates it. That is, we are not allowed to enjoy the journey. If anything goes wrong during the process, we feel frustrated because we are wasting time. Our anxiety ensures that there is no joy in learning from mistakes.

Any time we spend that is not productive, we label “procrastination.” But, ironically, we “procrastinate” to escape this anxiety caused by the lack of productivity, so it’s a vicious cycle from which we never get any break.

If you are fortunate enough, you can put a stop to it. Just insist on doing something unproductive today, some activity (or inactivity) you have no word for. At the end of the day, you might ask yourself, “What did I do today?” Don’t answer it. Tell your superego to shut up. If everything you do made sense, you’d be a Stormtrooper. What makes you you is the stuff that makes no sense.