Disinterested Musings: The Joy Of Time Spent Alone

Food For Thought - Angus Sully - Disinterested Musings

It’s Saturday morning and the first light beams through a crack in the curtain. Rising is slow and a hot drink is prepared. Pressures are few and no plans have been made. The first sip of tea soothes a parched throat and the eyes wander to watch the outside world turn.

This particular quality of situation is the perfect condition for musing, as time permits its indulgence. Before you eager yourself to fill your day with chores, or activities for the sake of something, consider activities for the sake of nothing, for the sake itself.

This is a short celebration of the distracted muser. What is one exactly? It takes a dose of curiosity, persistence and disinterestedness (in the sense that no advantage is sought). Its one of the most fulfilling experiences and rejuvenates the spirit from connecting with your inner child to beholding the majesty of Nature.

The second sip of tea makes its way to the belly. Eyes are wide and unfocused, thought is minimal and the warmth of the sun hugs the exposed skin. The eyes catch a brown line moving across the white wall. You move to take a further look. A single-file line of small ants obediently follow each other, like children filing for lunch. Why do they all follow each other? What is the goal of their actions? The beginnings of a muse have begun. Cross-legged now and arching forward with squinting eyes you notice a web lightly swaying, neighbouring the parade. There sits an elegant fellow, white bottomed, squat-like with 8 huge thin legs. it moves a short distance toward the line with rapid intent but stops. With peaking curiosity you ask, Why? Why did he stop?

Again with long legged elegance it darts and recoils. What could it be waiting for? Surely they are all as juicy as each other? After a while, a long while, a small break appears in the line of ants. Just a fraction of a second delay. In this moment, and with great swiftness, it mounts the lone ant that marches into the chance-formed gap. Just as quick, it again recoils empty handed. An observation of the unexpected brings a wild delight of confusion.

Tug, and the ant is dragged. Dragged, without even a hint of suspicion, not one brother helps, the danger remotely disguised. From the line to the solitary bed of intricately woven silk, breakfast is served. Did the spider learn the gap-catch from experience or was it genetic knowledge, or perhaps learning from the mistake of a fallen comrade? Do new behaviours emerge in spiders? One question leads to another, requiring further observations and the beginning of another adventure.

Musing is like colour. Varying in intensity and type. One man’s meat is another’s poison. What’s important is the nurturing of these moments. Seeing its value from experience. It is neither forced nor planned for. It is a spontaneous activity that has its beginnings in the curiosity of the world around. For some it may be idle crowd watching, or comparing the shapes of noses. What musing is not, is blind. It is a cognitive activity, an expression of thought, structured through questions, hypotheses and the revision of these in light of investigation.

Next time you are bored, be thankful. Musings are just around the corner.

James Birchall

James is an optimist who has a keen interest in the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of itself. Science remains close to his heart since finishing his MSc in Biochemistry at Liverpool. He believes learning is life-long and forms an important part of living a good life.


  1. There is quite the distinction between being alone and being lonely. People tend to forget that. 🙂

  2. This is cute how it’s about ants. Could you write one on cockroaches or ninja turtles please? 🙂

    • The turtles in the tank needs to be upgraded. Their dad misses them. I think he secretly lurks in the kitchen sometimes.

  3. Gosh this went deep…to the extent of questioning nature…bits of puzzles perfectly put together i would say..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *