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The art of doing nothing a la Winnie-the-Pooh

Sonia Vashishta Oberoi
Sonia Vashishta Oberoi

Writer and educator, PhD in African-American literature

Jakarta | Fri, September 28, 2018 | 09:38 am
The art of doing nothing a la Winnie-the-Pooh

Friends forever: The adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and Winnie-the-Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) share a moving moment in a still from Walt Disney's 'Christopher Robin'. (Walt Disney Studios/File)

“People say Nothing is Impossible, but I do Nothing all the time!” utters Winnie-the-Pooh in all innocence in Walt Disney's Christopher Robin, directed by Marc Foster.

Lost in the maze of a materialistic and sinister corporate world, Christopher Robin, like most of us, finds the simplicity and rusticity of the toy bear unnerving. He gives Winnie-the-Pooh a sidelong glance and wonders about the foolish words of the affectionately dubbed "silly bear".

However, this time the story is not about the silly bear, but about silly Christopher Robin. Now middle-aged, Christopher Robin is harried and hassled by the grinding pressures at work. He is leading a life of stress and anxiety, making and counting money all the time. Having lost his mojo, he is a dull and boring workaholic unable to spend time with his wife and daughter.

On the other side in the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie-the-Pooh suddenly finds that he has lost all his friends. He believes only Christopher Robin can help him find them, so sets out to seek Christopher Robin and ask for help. Pooh is happy, because he has not seen Christopher Robin in decades.

But who helps whom?

The movie is a wake-up call for many of us. Lost in our tight schedules and daily errands, we have forgotten to maintain our work-life balance. As we try to earn more and more, we end up working more and more. The irony is that we have more money, but we don’t have the time to enjoy that money with our families.

An even more serious repercussion of our busy schedule is that we fill up our children’s schedules too, so that they don't feel bad about our busyness. We enroll them in classes offering various activities. By the time we get home from work, our children are so tired that they have already dozed off. They are soon sleep so we have more time to do some more work. Perfect, right?  

In Christopher Robin, we all know that Pooh and the other adorable characters of the Hundred Acre Wood were born as a result of the time Christopher Robin spent leisurely in his childhood. So a young boy's creative imagination created these characters, but do we allow our own children to have the time to be imaginative and creative?

We have filled their days with a fixed routine of before-school, school, after-school and weekend classes that they are left with no leisure time. They have become so habituated to their jam-packed life that if they had an occasional few free minutes,  they become confused and anxious: They don’t know what to do with it. They harp on about being bored again and again. Boredom also means an inactive imagination and fidgetiness. We have become so used to back-to-back schedules that we have forgotten the art of being idle, doing nothing.

We have forgotten that one day long ago, a wise man was sitting idly under a tree when an suddenly apple fell on his head. He noticed this phenomenon and chalked out the laws of gravity. In more modern days, Walt Disney himself used to sit long hours doing nothing but doodling idly, and became a world-famous animator. J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of Harry Potter not while sitting at a desk, but while thinking idly on a delayed train.

Can we imagine ourselves or our children doing nothing? Obviously not.

So the thought of the day is that sitting idle has its own benefits: Doing nothing can create something. In our idle time we introspect, think, reflect and relax. Doing nothing revitalizes our minds and other faculties. Doing nothing gives us the space and time to remove the various facades we adopt during a day’s work to have a tête-à-tête with our inner and true selves.

So don’t always be in a hurry. Dive into the lush, deep forest of idleness sometimes. It is true that there are always promises to keep and chores to finish, but remember that these occasional escapes into idleness will rejuvenate us by clearing the cobwebs in our minds, hearts and souls.

Stop being so busy, take a break and do nothing, as Christopher Robin learns to do toward the end of the movie, spending a leisurely weekend with his family in the wilderness of the Hundred Acre Wood. He forgets about his miserable life in the big city and plays as he did as a young boy while sleepy-eyed Eeyore remarks that he is happy again.

Christopher Robin may have been lost in the wilderness, but he reemerges as a well-balanced and joyful person. He finds Pooh’s friends, along with his enthusiasm and zeal.

Doing nothing is not only possible but essential, because it breaks the monotony of our routine, humdrum lives. It gives us the time to be happy and content. Enjoy doing nothing once in a while, which is actually a moment to bring together our minds, bodies and souls – the requisite for a happy life. When these are in harmony, only then can we explore the depths of our mysterious and wonderful existence in this world. Give children the time to be imaginative and creative for the good of their emotional, mental and social well-being. (wng)

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Currently based in Jakarta, Sonia Vashishta Oberoi holds a doctorate in African-American literature. She was previously an English professor at REVA University in Bangalore, India. She has authored many insightful research papers that have been published in local and international journals. She also writes at https://thinkotopia.wordpress.com

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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