The Devil Finds Work For Idle Hands
Growing up it seems that I heard that "the devil finds work for idle
hands" forever. I think that when I was about seven I abandoned the
idea of the existence of a devil or Satan if you prefer. But, the
thought of doing nothing held little appeal.
Every September I go to Star Island located ten miles out in the
Atlantic from Rye, New Hampshire. When I was employed, one of the
enticements was the idea of doing nothing, out of touch with the
mainland. We had no televison, no newspaper, no contact with the
outside world. Our world was contained on a forty-five acre island
with no fresh water where most of the inhabitants were herring gulls.
Star is part of the Isles of Shoals. Originally a fishing village in
the 17th and 18th century, it was acquired by the Unitarian
Universalist Association in 1923 as a retreat center. It is jointly
owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church
of Christ. I spend hours sitting on the rocks watching the waves or in
the small stone chapel that is bereft of heat and electricity.
Most of that time I am doing nothing, or am I. Is meditation doing
nothing? Is reading doing nothing? Is listening to classical or jazz
music doing nothing? Is anyone capable of doing nothing? Can you
suspend all sensation?
I submit that I have never "done nothing." Some part of me is always
in motion or active. Even standing on a golf course waiting for an
opportunity to play my shot involves an active brain visualizing the
expected flight of the ball, the sound of the strike and its accurate
flight to my chosen target. Or, if the wait was longer, I would be
enjoying the scenery or perhaps smelling the flowers.
Sitting among my friends listening to memoirs involves active
listening. That is not doing nothing. I take in the images your words
paint and often see myself in similar situations. I recall things that
I forgot. Yet, I appear to be doing nothing.
Now, many years after my mother warned me about idle hands, I can
truly say that she needes not fear. My hands, even motionless, are