Doing Nothing

In the 1970s & 80s, anthropologists working in small-scale, non-industrial societies fastidiously noted down what people were doing throughout the day. I’ve been exploring the data & am struck by one of the most popular activities: doing nothing.

This is an excellent Twitter thread from anthropologist Manvir Singh. Thanks to friend Shanti for putting it our way.

Most of the high-ranking activities in these plots are well-studied by psychologists. But how much do we know about doing nothing? Not much. Living in fast-paced, industrialized societies with constant access to entertainment, it’s easy to lose sight of the value of doing nothing.

So there we have it. Let it not be said that being at peace isn’t the natural state, that this isn’t the state we should all be driving towards instead of some nebulous and never-sated idea of “success.” Success is the artificial thing, hassled into us by industrial society.

Today is hot (also because of industrial society) so I’ve been spending most of my time lying in bed beneath a single cool sheet while listening to the calls of starlings though the open window. Hardly arduous, and about as close to “doing nothing” as it’s possible to get. And now I know that the people of the Efé and Madurese communities would find my choice an agreeable one.

I hope you’re staying cool, ideally by doing nothing, wherever you are.

Tired of the everyday grind? Survive in style with The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Available now.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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