The beaver is one of the busiest animals in the world. A true ‘hustler‘.
A regular beaver day begins in the evening. After a quick swim, the beaver sets off on the first task of the day: cutting down a tree with its shiny orange buck teeth.
Depending on the size of the tree, the beaver creates a project plan to bring down a tree. The plan lasts anywhere between 3-30 days.
After spending hours biting a tree and looking ridiculous, the beaver moves onto the next task: gathering wood.
As midnight falls, the Beaver uses the gathered wood to build a dam to help prevent floods from destroying the several real estate the beaver has invested in.
The Beaver loves its properties. It even uses the discarded wood from the dam-building process to furnish a home or two.
It then breaks for supper which is not very different from work because it’s chewing on wood to get to some bark juice. This is one of the saddest things I have heard.
After that, it’s back at work inspecting the dam for leaks and gathering up stones to plug these leaks. By this time, the sun is out and the beaver calls it a day and goes home to its family to get a semblance of work-life balance. And it does this everyday for the rest of its life.
Sounds like someone you know?
Sounds like you?
We have all at some point or another used a calendar. What started out as a productivity tool has now morphed into a virtuous symbol of rigor. At work, it’s not uncommon for people to show you their calendars just to prove how awesome they are.
The calendar is one of the many crummy evidences for wood-gnawing occupation. For equating busy to important.
Busy-as-important is inner fire without oxygen. It’s the intense look we have begin to fashion: I am doing something important, just unsure why.
Go into a public space and do nothing and after a while you begin to feel naked. The need to constantly do something has moved from neurotic and child-like, to normal and hip.
Busy as a compulsive order of the day is no more about days and weeks. It’s about years and lifetime. It’s not a mental affliction as much as moral affectation.
And now’s as good time as any to tell you Beavers die if they stop working.
If that inspires you, here’s more fun-factotum: What looks like work is the beaver grinding down its ever-growing teeth, preventing the teeth from growing on its face and killing the Beaver. (I will spare you the actual image.) The Beavers aren’t working as much as surviving.
In the little time they have left after ensuring survival, they do useful stuff like build dams and help the ecosystem – which, lets face it, is more important than what most of us are doing.
It’s natural surviving has become the default response of the mindlessly busy. I am surviving is a style statement. And in a way, it’s true.
We survive because we are afraid to confront our own gnawing existential insignificance. Instead of being busy about what’s truly important, we use rigor to avoid everything that is. Instead of living, we survive. By escaping through doing, and more doing.
Hard-work has always been a virtue. You hear about it constantly. From entrepreneurs to celebrities, everyone goes batty about hard-work.
Here’s something you don’t hear much: hard-work is one of the top regrets of the dying. People, when asked about their lives in the final days, said they would go back in time and tell their younger selves not to work so hard.
This doesn’t mean they wanted to putz around all day and do nothing. It means they wish they had created more space to think, notice and understand what’s truly important.
Life, looking back, is a string of distinct memories only empty spaces can create. We are creating a meaningless blur filled all through with attention and everyone else’s priorities.
Busy and hard-work by themselves mean nothing. A packed calendar should be a source of ridicule, not awe. Busy has been glorified so much so that we are all okay standing in a quick-sand of time and survival. We get sucked in, chewed up, and spit out – thoroughly used, just not useful.
On a Kafkaesque note, if you woke up tomorrow and found that you’ve transformed into a Beaver, would your life be any different?