We live in world where productivity reigns and where each of us is confronted with a non-stop torrent of digital information every day. This is a recipe for exhaustion and for losing touch with reality. It’s also the reason we must learn to do nothing. In this powerful visual essay, Jenny Odell launches this discussion by describing the many hours she has spent in Oakland, California’s rose garden and in encountering contemporary art. In these spaces, gardeners and artists create a structure that “holds open a contemplative space” for people “against the pressures of habit and familiarity” that can so easily suffocate us and make us forget that we are persons with bodies dwelling in time. Why is this so important? Because in our fast-paced, profit-driven world, we are so often alienated “from each other but also from the protective impulse that we harbor.” Doing nothing can help us see that novelty and growth aren’t nearly as important as maintenance and care for the people and places around us. It can help us “adopt a protective stance toward ourselves, each other, and whatever is left of what makes us human.”
Interact with this beautiful visual essay for yourself. For more, pick up Jenny Odell’s recent book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy or watch this short video for an introduction to the ideas.