Let’s Do Nothing!

Let’s Do Nothing by Toby Fucile illustrates the perplexity of the concept of nothing. The book tells the story of two boys who, after concluding that they have “done it all,” decide to do nothing.

The trouble is that doing nothing is not easy. If you blink, you’re not doing nothing. If you open your eyes, you’re not doing nothing, but if you close them, you’re not doing nothing. Finally the boys conclude, “There is no way to do nothing.”

What do we mean when we say we are doing nothing? What would it mean to do nothing? Is it impossible to do nothing if you’re alive?What exactly is nothing?  Can “nothing” exist?

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7 years ago

"Doing nothing is the impossible thing to do. Everything we do affect others. It's up to us if we decide to do what is good or bad in order to influenced other people involuntarily. Doing nothing is impossible because it is just a waste of time. It is not how human works.
What a simple post yet interesting."

7 years ago

Hi Joshua,
I believe our Program Director, Sara Goering, is a parent at John Stanford too!
The excerpt from Winnie the Pooh that you reference is a great passage for examining the nature of nothing! I'll have to use that. I love Winnie the Pooh.
The question of the connection between the existence or non-existence of nothing, and whether you can do nothing, is an interesting one. Another work I like for this discussion is The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell.

7 years ago

I have recently become aware of your program & blog. I would love to have you visit John Stanford Int School near UW, where I'm a father and PTSA pres.
But for this blog post, I actually have a comment. This gets at what I consider my favorite Poohism. Here is the pertinent excerpt.

“…"But what I like doing best is Nothing." "How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time. "Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it." "Oh, I see," said Pooh. "This is a nothing sort of thing that we're doing right now." "Oh, I see," said Pooh again. "It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering." "Oh!" said Pooh.”

Ultimately, they are calling "nothing" what many neuroscientists call the "default mode." I don't know, perhaps they are actually meditating, actively even. To the point though, there is a lot that can be considered nothing, but doing nothing, truly nothing, from a neuro/phisio perspective is nearly impossible. I'd be intrigued to hear how you would address this with young children.