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Background to action

Action is something that takes place within a background of inaction, just as noise is heard against a background of silence. It shouldn't be that we run and run and then pause to rest, but that our actions emerge appropriately, at the right time and place, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Most people find the encounter with silence and inactivity difficult. We can't bear to be caught doing nothing. When we finish our work we run home and seek other activities with which to entertain ourselves. We hate to stand in a queue with nothing to do, so we play with our phones. If we need to take long journeys we fill our time with inflight entertainment systems, magazines, books - anything, as long as we don't have to deal with the boredom of having nothing to do. If we "practice" meditation the teacher makes sure to give us a focus of concentration, like the breathing or a mantra, and then meditation becomes just another "activity" like all the other activities that we do. I wonder why we are so afraid of empty time, why we are scared to be alone with ourselves? To confront ourselves as we are, rather than escaping into plans, dreams, memories and fantasies. I remember as a teenager seeing old men in Afghan villages whiling away the hours in teashops and roadside stalls and thinking that they know something that we in the west have lost. And I remember my grandfather sitting in his armchair for hours and hours doing nothing in particular. That's where he was when he died.