Doing nothing…

I was watching people this week during the flooding of the Hawkesbury River in Western Sydney. Once the bridges closed and the evacuations were underway, there wasn’t much left to do*. Then when the roads all around us closed, there was nothing we even could do. We just had to sit and wait for the water to recede. We had to do nothing.

And then today Chad Mackin posted this on Facebook:

It’s hard to do nothing. Lots of people couldn’t. There were the shoppers, wandering the bare aisles of the supermarkets; the Facebook posters, everything from humour to entitlement and rage; the rubber-neckers, out for a gander at the flood waters… We all struggled to do nothing. Especially during a natural disaster where there is also that feeling of helplessness layered in.

I don’t mean to sound frivolous, comparing a natural disaster to dog training. There’s just always a lesson in there somewhere.

In our society, it seems being always busy is celebrated. When we’re forced to stop and do nothing while mother nature flings challenges at us, we struggle. Then we want the opposite from our dogs. We want them to sit still, to not jump, to not run out the door, to not pull on leash, not bark, not bite, just sit still and let us pat them.

We need to remember that doing nothing is hard. We can train our dogs for it, but need to train with compassion and empathy. Doing nothing doesn’t pass the “dead man test” – the dead man does nothing easily, because he’s dead! Living things find it hard. We’re up against instinct, learned behaviours, competing motivators, avoidance, and in some cases that feeling of helplessness.

It’s also an important skill. Learning to do nothing when you really want to is important. It helps in a functional society, on Facebook, and helps us live better with our dogs.

* We are in the high ground of Freemans Reach and very safe from floodwaters, we were just cut off when all local river crossings closed, then isolated when both Putty Road and Bells Line of Road were also closed. As the waters recede more damage to the area is being discovered, so it will take time to recover. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this event, across Australia.

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