Busy Beavers

Every once in a while, I go to work for a few hours on Sunday morning, usually until the mid-afternoon, when there is some particularly massive amount of work to do that needs to be done by the end of Monday but that does not look feasible to do on Monday alone. Whenever this happens, I find it somewhat curious that I end up getting to the empty offices at work at the same time as a substantial number of parents taking their children to what is called the Saturday Academy, which has a lot of busy beaver children and their very ambitious parents seeking to gain an academic advantage through using the weekend as an opportunity for additional tutoring and instruction. The sight of elementary school age children and their parents filing into small rooms to study or interview for spaces in the tutoring program fills with me with a wide variety of mixed emotions, which I suppose is to be expected given the course of my life.

On the one hand, I can clearly identify with the position of the children. For one, I was also at the same building at the same day being a busy beaver, something that comes a little bit too naturally for me. Just as clearly, I too was a particularly ambitious child when it came to education. I knew very early on in life that my brains were going to be my ticket out of the intense poverty and deprivation of my childhood. This was not a popular choice in the area of the world where I grew up–where it was most common to rise because of looks (which I have never had to any particular degree), athletic ability (something which I have enough of to be a competent athlete in some sports, but not enough to have gotten a scholarship in any), or ability in sales or physical labor (two sorts of jobs I am not well suited for either in physique or psychological makeup). So, given those options, I early focused on those gifts that I knew I had [1] to achieve my own desired end. It was interesting to see the composition of children doing the same thing today, as it is always intriguing for me to see people who at least in some fashion resemble my younger self from the outside.

On the other hand, I lament the tendency of children’s lives to be remorselessly overscheduled by well-meaning parents. Whether it is rushing off to soccer practice before some kind of music lessons and then babysitting or additional tutoring, there is a tendency for people (myself included) to fill up every possible moment of time that is available with some kind of demanding activity. And if I have failed to do so, there are plenty of people who are willing to make requests of me, whether in work or in my personal life, that will fill up that time admirably without my having to worry about doing it myself. Yet at the same time, it is those quiet moments of reflection, as brief as they may be, that fill one’s mind with the insight that is necessary for life to be better. If we are only ever busy and never relax, we will miss the joys of unhurried friendship, or of intuitive flashes of brilliance that give one a (perhaps undeserved) reputation for piercing intellect and surpassing wisdom.

It is easy enough to understand why it is most tempting to be a busy beaver in a world where there is so much to be done and so few who appear interested in doing it. In a world where indolence is all too common, it is easy to go to the other extreme and be excessively busy in our lives. How to find the right balance between productivity and enjoyment is something that I do not claim to have mastered, and it is an area of great struggle for many others as well. Still, to know that one does best when one does not do too much is not to know exactly where that point exists in a given situation. Much of wisdom and discernment requires sensitivity, self-knowledge, and is highly context-dependent. We all have to learn ourselves and our surroundings well enough to know our limits, and be strong enough at setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries, and it seems that this is a task that begins earlier and earlier in our lives, leaving us precious little time to be innocent children having fun. Life is too short to lose what should be the most carefree times of our lives. There is time enough to be anxious and under pressure when we are older and supposedly better able to handle it.

[1] See, for example:





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Busy Beavers

  1. Pingback: Down The Rabbit Hole | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Your Hitman For Today | Edge Induced Cohesion

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