By Aaron H. Wallace, Esq.
I’ve noticed that a new kind of holiday has emerged since the onset of the pandemic, and perhaps fittingly, it’s catching on at viral speed: The Do-Nothing Day.
“It changed my life,” writes one blogger.
“You need it,” says another.
Television magnate Shonda Rhimes’s magazine calls it “one of the best things you can do.”
Harper-Collins even published a book about the “magic” of a do-nothing day. The Disney Channel series “Phineas and Ferb” devoted a song to it. The Atlantic, noticing a new trend of journalists chronicling their investigations into nothingness, posted an approving round-up.
And now I’m here to say that as lawyers, we might owe ourselves a duty of a Do-Nothing Day.
Duty? Really? Look, I’m not sure that it’s in the Rules of Professional Conduct (yet), but what my research tells me is that if we don’t think of it as a duty, it might not get done. As it turns out, doing nothing — even for a day — is hard work, especially for us lawyer types who find the very concept as unfathomable as infinity. But that means we’re also the ones who need it most.
The History of a Holiday: A Do-Nothing Day for Lawyers
Recent as the fad may be, Do-Nothing-Day dates back at least a few decades. It was columnist Harold Pullman Coffin who first proposed a National Nothing Day back in 1972. Congress never endorsed the idea, but by 1973, the occasion did appear in Chase’s Calendar of Events (and still does today).
Chase’s pins National Nothing Day to January 16 on its calendar. (Once every seven years, the observance conflicts with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, in which case some adherents bump National Nothing Day back to the 17th instead.)
But the truth is that any day can be a Do-Nothing Day, and if you haven’t had one yet, sooner is better.
The Wisdom of the Ages: A Day of Rest Is Age-Old Spiritual Bedrock
Of course, Mr. Coffin was not the first to propose a day of rest. The idea of a sabbath, or a holy day of respite, is common among many of the world’s most enduring faiths.
This fact is of significance to our current consideration of the Do-Nothing Day. Why? Well, today is “Alignment Day” in the Institute for Well-Being in Law’s annual Well-Being Week in Law campaign — a day devoted to spiritual well-being, “fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in all aspects of life,” and aligning life with work to “serve your values.”
In considering all the practical benefits of a Do-Nothing Day, then, we might do well to consider its spiritual implications too. Far from a New Age notion, an intentional day of rest comes endorsed by the wisdom of the ages.
We Have to Work At It
In today’s world, even the most devout among us can struggle to observe any stillness, be it a sabbath, a holiday, or simply a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The modern world charges at us with digital distractions and a social network bigger than any known to another generation.
Moreover, ours is a profession that demands unrelenting excellence. It’s easy to feel “always on.”
That’s why we have to work at it. In recounting the surprising difficulty of adopting a recurring Do-Nothing Day in his household, The Atlantic columnist Jason Heller wrote, “We fight to stay still.”
“There are plenty of ways to avoid” doing nothing, he says. The trick is to overcome them.
How to Have a Do-Nothing Day for Lawyers
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