The Magic Stone

There’s a picture book by Russel Hoban called Nothing to Do that illuminates the value of free time for children, and the importance of helping them learn how to deal with it. Hoban’s book opens with little Walter Possum, a member of an endearing family of humanoid possums, who bothers his parents because he has “nothing to do.” Father Possum tells Walter to “play with your toys.” But Walter doesn’t feel like it. The father assigns him a job—to rake the leaves. But Walter soon loses interest. The only activity that seems to relieve the tedium is quarreling with his sister Charlotte, a terrible pest.

When Mother Possum needs to clean the house, Father gives Walter a smooth brown stone and instructs him to run it when he has nothing to do. It is a magic stone, Father tells him. “You have to look around and think while you’re rubbing it, and then the stone gives you something to do.”

Naturally, belief in the magic of the stone leads Walter to discover all manner of things to do. He finds a long-lost ball, he visits a friend, he dreams up a buried treasure game. He even devises a clever way to keep his irksome little sister from interrupting his game by presenting her with a stick that is also invested with putative magic powers. Besides having fun, he stays out of his parents’ hair all afternoon.

Marie Winn, The Plug-in Drug

My biggest point taken away from reading The Plug-in Drug was that television (today one might add “and Facebook, video games, Facebook games...”) drops into the hand as incredibly low-hanging fruit. There are other, more enjoyable and more rewarding things to do with our time (who really feels good after an evening of trawling clickbait?), but they do not do the service of dropping into our hand. This has the result that if you are used to Facebook or TV giving you something to do, it’s hard not to sit and do nothing besides staring at the wall because you do not see anything to do.

This page is meant to help you find something to do.

This page, in imitation of a writing prompts page, is intended to remind the reader of other things to do. Many of them are not as easy as Twitter, and some of them involve learning real skill. However, I believe that a good pick from the options here could help us get back from “Nothing to do” besides YouTube.

  1. Read 101 Creative Dates: Ideas, Tips, and Personal Experiences from the Life of a Hopeless Romantic and look for ideas that might apply to you whether or not you have a significant other.
  2. Read What is Wrong with the World.
  3. Take up adult Legos.
  4. Start attending an Orthodox parish.
  5. Keep an aquarium.
  6. Read and follow up on Nourishing Traditions, and then The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.
  7. Learn a musical instrument, perhaps a recorder.
  8. Learn to sew.
  9. Learn the art of memory as in Mega Memory even if it doesn't live up to the advertising hype.
  10. Read Amazing Providence.
  11. Learn how to take works from Project Gutenberg and read them in your Kindle or ebook reader. You might start with reading The Consolation of Philosophy.
  12. Take up coin collecting.
  13. Take a camping trip.
  14. Take up origami.
  15. Read "Social Antibodies" Needed: A Request of Orthodox Clergy.
  16. Take up knitting.
  17. Read How Can I Take my Life Back from my Phone?.
  18. Read 55 New Maxims for the Cyber-Quarantine.
  19. Join a class or activity with your park district.
  20. Read The Silicon Rule.
  21. Stargaze.
  22. Read The Best Things in Life are Free.
  23. Take up jewelry making.
  24. Read Ask for the Ancient Ways.
  25. Join a book discussion club.
  26. Read The Angelic Letters.
  27. Read Refutatio Omnium Haeresium.
  28. Volunteer, perhaps at a local food pantry.
  29. Learn to juggle.
  30. Explore local tourist attractions.
  31. Take up watercolor painting.
  32. Read Beyond the Unbearable Burden of Non-Being.
  33. Take up model building.
  34. Research and practice active listening.
  35. Read Will There Be a Place for Me?.
  36. Read What to Own for Happiness (and what not).
  37. Take up amateur acting.
  38. Read Game Review: Meatspace.
  39. Buy, and learn to use, a yo-yo. A butterfly yoyo may be easiest.
  40. Read Why I'm Glad I'm Living Now, at This Place, at This Time, in This World.
  41. Walk a mile on the sidewalk without stepping on any cracks.
  42. Cloudwatch.
  43. Go hiking.
  44. Read Yonder.
  45. Read Stephanos.
  46. Read Technology Is Part of Our Poverty.
  47. Spend an hour outside.
  48. Keep a journal.
  49. Read Plato: The Allegory of the... Flickering Screen?.
  50. Read Who is Rich? The Person Who Is Content.
  51. Visit Creative Writing Prompts on a laptop or desktop (it may not work on mobile, sadly) and write something.
  52. Start and keep a blog.
  53. Peoplewatch.
  54. Read Roger von Oech's Creative Whack Pack.
  55. Read Mindfulness and Manners.
  56. Take a class at your community college.
  57. Read books at Orthodox Church Fathers.
  58. Read "Religion and Science" is not Just Intelligent Design vs. Evolution.
  59. Keep a garden.
  60. Read Fire in the Hole.
  61. Do an act of gratuitous kindness for someone else.
  62. Color an adult coloring book.
  63. Write a paper letter to an older relative.
  64. Visit a local library and find something to start reading.
  65. Read Revelation and Our Singularity.
  66. Learn to be an illusionist for the children in your life.
  67. Take up wood burning.
  68. Read Happiness in an Age of Crisis.
  69. Read You Can Choose to be Happy in the Here and Now.
  70. Take up a team sport.
  71. Take up sudoku.
  72. Read True Woke is Repentance.
  73. Take up candle making.
  74. Read How to Find a Job: A Guide for Orthodox Christians.
  75. Take up woodworking.
  76. Read Singularity.
  77. View and follow up on Depression is a Disease of Civilization.
  78. Keep a pet or, if you cannot responsibly own a pet now, visit at a local pet shelter. You don't need to give the impression that you're looking to adopt; most shelters welcome people who will give the pets constructive attention, and if you ask and a pet shelter says they only want people looking to adopt, say "Thank you," and move on to another one.
  79. Read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
  80. Dig into the puzzles at Python Challenge.
  81. Take up oil painting.
  82. Read The Luddite's Guide to Technology.
  83. Do some honest soul-searching, and try to do better.
  84. Take up jigsaw puzzles.
  85. Read Veni, Vidi, Vomui: A Look at "Do You Want to Date my Avatar?".
  86. Explore a museum.
  87. Read Orthodox Theology and Technology: A Profoundly Gifted Autobiography.
  88. Read "Physics".
  89. Get Lego Mindstorms and start hobbyist robotics.
  90. Read Branding is the New Root of All Evil.
  91. Go walking.
  92. Take up geocaching.
  93. Take up flower arranging.
  94. Take up letterboxing.
  95. Read The Consolation of Theology.
  96. Give someone a gift.
  97. Learn to cook.
  98. Volunteer in English as a Second Language instruction.
  99. Read Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts.
  100. Learn to play chess.
  101. Take up archery.
  102. Start birding.
  103. Take up bug collecting.
  104. Take up sewing.
  105. Join Toastmasters.
  106. Take up climbing.
  107. Apologize to someone you have hurt.
  108. Read A Note to the Reader.
  109. Read Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement.
  110. Read The Arena.
  111. Take up stamp collecting.
  112. Ask to join a group of people playing sports or talking in the park.
  113. Take up crossword puzzles.
  114. Become a clown.
  115. Take up balloon sculpting and make balloons for the children you know.

Enjoy any one of these, or just a few.

Author: C.J.S. Hayward

C.J.S. Hayward is an Orthodox author and Renaissance man with master's degrees bridging math and computers (UIUC) and theology and philosophy (Cambridge). His most prized work is what he writes in Eastern Orthodox, Christian theology and apologetics. Readers of apologists like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft, contemporary Orthodox authors such as Met. KALLISTOS Ware, and classic authors like St. John Chrysostom will find much food for spiritual reflection.