a little east of reality

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mr Curly suggests rest

Here's that Curly Pyjama letter I promised to post. (The emphases are as per the original.)

(From Mr Curly to Vasco Pyjama)

Dear Vasco,
In response to your question, "What is worth doing and what is worth having?" I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause, you must rest Vasco - otherwise you will become RESTLESS!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged, ongoing state of fatigue, to which our world seems to be rapidly adapting, is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must HAVE that feeling and you must act upon it sensibly - you MUST rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity - cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly - so cruel and meaningless - so utterly graceless - and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this.

And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied - they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy. So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat - learn to curl up and rest - feel your noble tiredness - learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat: it's worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Yours sleepily, Mr Curly xxx

I've kept a photocopy of this for a long time now, because I think it's so wise. Even in Western societies we treat exhausting ourselves as a virtue and pat people on the back all the time for soldiering on when they should be stopping, resting, relaxing, recovering, sleeping. But it was in Japan that I learned how this looks when all of society embraces it as a motto to live by. You see it when you are on a train coming home at 11pm and the seats are full of sleeping businessmen who haven't seen their kids on a weekday for months. You hear it when a 15-year-old student describes their schedule to you: 6am get up, 7.30am get to school to practice musical instrument, 8.30am school, 3.30pm club meeting (clubs meet every day usually including weekends), 6pm part time job, 10pm homework, 12.30am sleep. You feel it when the only time a Japanese friend can meet you is for breakfast or every fourth Sunday because they are working in a restaurant 10am - 10pm six days a week. People who exist on caffeine and stress don't have a lot of fun.

For me the problem isn't work. I'm not expected to put in impossible hours at breakneck speed like some people are. But my work suffers from my inability to let myself rest. If I have time I feel like I should be using it for something. Something other than sleeping, that is. I don't feel driven; it's not about that. I'm certainly not always productive, but I'm always doing something. I often forget that sleeping is necessary - I tend to see it as a waste of time. I always have. When I was a kid there were just too many other good things to be doing, but as an adult it's too often about getting something done, having too many hobbies and wanting more from myself than the amount of sleep I'm getting can provide.