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The “Busy” Trap 忙碌的陷阱

原文作者:sherry zhang

  if you live in america in the 21st century, you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. it’s become the default1) response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “busy!” “so busy.” “crazy busy.” it is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. and the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “that’s a good problem to have,” or “better than the opposite.”
   notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the i.c.u.2) or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. exhausted. dead on their feet3). it’s almost always people whose lamented4) busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. they’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.[论文网]
   almost everyone i know is busy. they feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. they schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 g.p.a.5)’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications.
   but the present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence6) to it. not long ago i skyped7) with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of france. she described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. she still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. she says it feels like college—she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. she has a boyfriend again. what she had mistakenly assumed was her personality—driven, cranky8), anxious and sad—turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. it’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling9) or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school—it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
   busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. i once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. this was an entertainment magazine whose reason for existence was obviated10) when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of in

stitutional self-delusion. i can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic11) exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

  i am not busy. i am the laziest ambitious person i know. like most writers, i feel like a reprobate12) who does not deserve to live on any day that i do not write, but i also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. on the best ordinary days of my life, i write in the morning, go for a long bike ride13) and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening i see friends, read or watch a movie. this, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day.
   but just in the last few months, i’ve insidiously14) started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. for the first time i was able to tell people, with a straight face15), that i was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. i could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after16) and put-upon17). except that i hate actually being busy. every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things i did not want to do or presenting me with problems that i now had to solve. it got more and more intolerable until finally i fled town to the undisclosed location from which i’m writing this.
   here i am largely unmolested18) by obligations. there is no tv. to check e-mail i have to drive to the library. i go a week at a time without seeing anyone i know. i’ve remembered about buttercups19), stink bugs20) and the stars. i read. and i’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. it’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.
   idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin d is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets21). the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote thomas pynchon22) in his essay on sloth23). archimedes24)’ “eureka25)” in the bath, newton’s apple, jekyll & hyde26) and the benzene ring27): history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. it almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks28) and no-accounts29) aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

  perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as i do. but i would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewher

e between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. my role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. my own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but i did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since i’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people i love. i suppose it’s possible i’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that i didn’t work harder and say everything i had to say, but i think what i’ll really wish is that i could have one more beer with chris, another long talk with megan, one last good hard laugh with boyd. life is too short to be busy.
   你如果生活在21世纪的美国,很可能会听到很多人告诉你说自己有多忙。WwW.11665.COM每当你问到别人的近况时,得到的都像是程序设定好的答案:“忙啊!”“太忙了。”“忙死了。”很显然,这些话看似抱怨,实为夸耀。于是听的人也总是备着“忙是好事啊”或者“忙总比不忙好”这样的恭维话。
   请注意,这些说自己有多忙的人通常并不是那些在重症监护室连续值班,或倒公交车赶三份最低薪酬的工作的人。他们那不叫忙,而是累——疲惫不堪,筋疲力尽。这些人口中所哀叹的忙碌几乎全是自找的:自愿承担工作和责任;“鼓励”孩子上各种补习课,参加各种活动。他们忙,是因为他们雄心勃勃、干劲十足或焦虑不安,是因为他们已沉溺于忙碌的状态,害怕要是不忙起来,他们不知要面临什么样的状况。
   我认识的几乎所有人都很忙。当他们不是在工作或是做对工作有益的事时,他们就会充满焦虑,满心愧疚。他们安排时间与朋友相约的方式,简直就像那些成绩绩点是4.0的学生一定要报名参加社区服务,因为这在申请大学时会让简历更好看些。
   但是,当今社会的这种狂躁状态并不是生活所必需的,也不是不可避免的。它是我们自己选择或至少是我们默认的生活状态。不久前我和一位朋友打网络电话,她因为房租太高而被迫离开了城市,如今在法国南部一座小镇当访问艺术家。她说,这么多年来她第一次感到如此快乐而又轻松。她依然会完成自己的工作,但工作不会耗尽她一整天的时间和精力。她说感觉就像回到了大学时代,有一大群朋友,每天晚上一起泡在咖啡馆里。她还交了新男友。她曾错误地以为冲动、暴躁、焦虑和忧郁就是自己的个性,但事实证明这些都是环境引发的畸变。并不是我们任何一个人想要过这样的生活,正如没有任何一个人想要遭遇堵车、体育馆踩踏或中学各级小团体间的残酷倾轧一样,这只是我们所有人联起手强迫彼此去做的事情。
   忙碌是一种体现存在的自我安慰,是阻隔空虚的围栏。显然,如果你那么忙、日程那么满、时时刻刻待命,那你的生活就不可能庸碌、琐碎、无意义。我以前认识一位在杂志社实习的女士,社里不许她外出用午餐,唯恐有什么紧急事要她处理。那不过是份娱乐杂志,自从电视遥控器上有了“菜单”键后,它就不再有存在的价值了。所以,这种伪装出来的不可或缺性只能看做是一种习惯性的自欺欺人。我忍不住会想,这种种故意表现出来的精疲力竭是否就是为了掩盖一个事实,那就是我们所做的大多数事情并不重要。
   我不忙。我是所认识的有抱负的人中最懒惰的一个。像大多数作家一样,我要是哪天不写作,就会觉得自己很堕落,觉得这一天都没脸活在世上。但同时我又觉得,每天工作四五个小时足够了,完全能养活自己在世上多活一天。在平常的大多数日子里,我都是早晨写作,下午骑车远行兜风,然后办些事情,晚上会会朋友、读读书或者看看电影。在我看来,这才是一天合理而又愉悦的生活节奏。
   但就在前几个月,出于工作需要,我在不知不觉间开始忙碌起来。我破天荒地终于能一本正经地跟别人说我“太忙了”,干不了他们想要我干的这事那事。我终于明白为什么人们喜欢这么抱怨了:这让人觉得自己很重要,为人所需,有利用价值。不过,我实在讨厌忙碌。每天早晨我的收件箱里都塞满了邮件,要我去做我不想做的事情,或者给我一些必须马上解决的问题。情况让我越来越受不了,最终我从城里逃了出来,来到这片隐居地,在这儿写着手头上这篇文章。
   在这儿,基本上没有什么事由来干扰我。这里没有电视。要查电子邮件,我得开车到图书馆去才行。有一次我一个礼拜没见任何熟人。我记起了金凤花、椿象和满天的星星。我读书。几个月来,我终于完成了一些真正的写作。若不将自己投身于这个世界,就很难发现生活有什么好写;但若不走出这个世界,那同样几乎不可能想明白生活可能是什么,以及如何用最恰当的语言来形容。

  悠闲不是度假、放纵或恶习。悠闲之于大脑,如同维生素d之于身体,是不可或缺的。如果悠闲被剥夺,我们的精神会备受煎熬,就像身体因佝偻病而扭曲变形。悠闲为我们提供了空间和宁静,这是我们退后一步以全面审视生活的必要条件,也使我们能建立意想不到的联系,等待灵感如夏日的闪电一样袭来。虽然看似矛盾,但悠闲却是完成任何工作的必要条件。“我们做任何事情,悠闲的空想通常都必不可少。”小托马斯·鲁格斯·品钦在他关于懒惰的一文中如此写道。阿基米德浴盆中的“尤里卡”、牛顿的苹果、《杰基尔和海德》、苯环——历史上到处都是灵感源自悠闲时刻和梦境的故事。这甚至会让你不由地想,那些浪子、懒人和无名小卒在世上创造出的伟大思想、发明、杰作是否比勤奋的人创造的还要多。
   世人要是都像我这样做事,也许这个世界就离毁灭不远了。但我想说的是,理想的人类生活既不是像我这样出于反叛的懒惰生活,也不是像其他人那样没完没了晕头转向的忙碌生活,而是介于两者之间。我只是起到一种不好的作用,就像一个小孩在教室窗外对着正襟危坐的你做个鬼脸,要你就这一次找个借口走出教室,来到室外,一起玩耍。我自己所坚守的悠闲更像一种奢侈,而非美德。而我的确很早就有

意识地做了一个决定,那就是选择时间而非金钱,因为我始终明白,我在世上的有限时光的最好投入,就是用它和所爱的人共度。我想,也许在临终时,我会后悔工作不够努力,没有说完该说的一切。但我想,那一刻我真正希望做的还是和克里斯再来瓶啤酒,和梅根再来一次促膝长谈,和波依德最后大笑一次。人生苦短,忙碌不起。
   1. default [?d??f??lt] n. [计]默认,系统设定
  2. i.c.u.:重症监护室(intensive care unit)
  3. dead on one’s feet:筋疲力尽
  4. lamented [l??mentid] adj. 被哀悼的,令人遗憾的
  5. g.p.a.:即成绩点数与学分的加权平均值(grade point average),又称g.p.r. (grade point ratio)。
  6. acquiescence [??kwi?es(?)ns] n. 默认,默许
  7. skype:一款网络即时语音沟通工具,可以免费与其他用户进行语音对话,也可以拨打国内国际电话。在文中此处是指“打网络电话”。
  8. cranky [?kr??ki] adj. 脾气暴躁的,古怪的
  9. trample [?tr?mp(?)l] vi. 践踏;蹂躏
  10. obviate [??bvie?t] vt. 排除;使成为不必要
  11. histrionic [?h?stri??n?k] adj. 做作的,不自然的
  12. reprobate [?repr??be?t] n. 堕落者
  13. go for a bike ride:骑车兜风
  14. insidiously [?n?s?di?sli] adv. 不知不觉间加剧地
  15. a straight face:绷着脸,一本正经的表情
  16. sought-after:广受欢迎的
  17. put-upon:被利用的
  18. unmolested [?n?m??lestid] adj. 不受干扰的,不受骚扰的
  19. buttercup [?b?t?(r)?k?p] n. 毛茛(开亮黄色花朵的小型植物),金凤花
  20. stink bug:椿象,一类翅膀变化异常的昆虫的通称,俗称“放屁虫”。
  21. rickets [?r?k?ts] n. 佝偻病,软骨病
  22. thomas pynchon:小托马斯·鲁格斯·品钦(thomas ruggles pynchon, jr., 1937~),美国作家,以写晦涩复杂的后现代主义小说著称。
   23. sloth [sl??θ] n. 懒散,懒惰
  24. archimedes:阿基米德(公元前287年~公元前212年),古希腊哲学家、数学家、物理学家,享有“力学之父”的美称。
  25. eureka:“尤里卡”,原是古希腊语,意为:“天啊!我发现了!”相传阿基米德有一次在浴盆里洗澡时突然来了灵感,发现了他久未解决的计算浮力问题的办法,因而惊喜地叫了一声“尤里卡”,阿基米德定律由此诞生。该词现用作因重大发现而发出的惊叹语。
   26. jekyll & hyde:《杰基尔和海德》,根据原名为《杰基尔医生和海德先生之奇案》(strange case of dr jekyll and mr hyde)的小说(现名为《化身博士》)改编而成的音乐剧。这部小说是英国著名作家罗伯特·史蒂文森(robert stevenson, 1850~1894)的代表作之一,其写作灵感源于作者的一个梦。
   27. benzene ring:苯环。19世纪90年代,有机化学家们都在为苯环的物理特征和化学结构而冥思苦想,德国化学家凯库勒(kekulé von stradonitz, 1829~1896)从梦中得到灵感,发现了苯环的基本结构。
   28. goldbrick [?ɡ?uldbrik] n. 懒汉
  29. no-account:无足轻重的人
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