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Killing Time ~ Building Tunnels To Nowhere February 21, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Nature, People, Poetry, Travel & Leisure.

Much of what humans do is just “busy work” . . . we’re like residents of a huge ant farm building tunnels to nowhere.

We need something to do while we’re here . . . so we pretend to ourselves that the “tunnels we’re building” are important.

Most of them aren’t.

Life’s little questions:
Are we a great cosmic joke?
God’s little ant farm?

Speaking of ant farms (or Formicariums), Wikipedia shared this little gem from popular culture:

When Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, used the trademarked phrase in one of his comic strips, he received threatening letters from Uncle Milton industries’ attorneys, demanding a retraction for the unauthorized use of the phrase “ant farm.”

Adams satirized the incident in a later comic strip: 

Dilbert asked for another word for “ant farm” . . . “a habitat for worthless and disgusting little creatures.”

Dogbert replied, “Law school.”

Source:  Wikipedia ~ Formicarium (edited for length).

As a “recovering attorney,” I find Dogbert’s response a suitable riposte.

But it’s not just lawyers building tunnels to nowhere ~ it’s all of us.  Maybe all we’re doing here is “killing time” from dawn to dusk . . . cradle to grave.

Days fly by . . . dawn turns to dusk . . . darkness descends.

What say you?

Related posts:  Monday Morning (View from the Side) * Musings ~ How We Spend Our Time (Mirth & Motivation) * A Day Without Expectation (Water Witch’s Daughter) * The “Why?” Of It All


1. creatingreciprocity - February 21, 2012

That sounds like my existential crisis, Nancy! I have it regularly.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

I like seeing things this way . . . if nothing really matters then all we have to do is “stay alive” (breathe, eat, sleep, poop, find shelter) and “get along” with the rest of the colony (shower, wear clothes, smile, laugh, be kind).

And, if it’s a nudist colony, we don’t even need to wear clothes. 😉

So, for me, it’s “existential” . . . but not a “crisis.”

2. William D'Andrea - February 21, 2012

Three thousand years ago King Solomon wrote, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity and a striving after wind.”
It looks like nothing really changes.
With all the effort I’ve put into getting both my novels published, and publicized, nobody’s bought a single copy. If anyone’s been striving after wind it’s me.

I also think that it’s best if we just learn to enjoy the good things we have; a good meal, good friends, and this winter here in the Northeast, very mild weather; along with all the innumerable pleasant things that happen.

I often tell people, “Enjoy it while you’ve got it!” That’s something I also have to keep telling myself.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Well put, William. Most of us are, indeed, “striving after the wind.” Far better to enjoy the good things in life than penalize ourselves for being here by pretending it’s a penal colony where we’ve been sentenced to “hard labor” for life.

Good food, good friends, and a nice bottle of wine . . . aah, that’s better.

3. Andra Watkins - February 21, 2012

Life is a daily challenge to live it. it takes constant focus to remember that, but it is worth the effort. 🙂

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

The more I ponder the meaninglessness of MOST of what we do here, the happier I become.

Since there is no need to create our “Magnum Opus” (unless we are enjoying the journey of creation) we are FREE to meander where we will as the path unfolds before us.

Aah . . . that’s better! Glass of wine?

Andra Watkins - February 21, 2012

In a bit. 🙂

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

I’ll pour at “wine time.”

4. suzicate - February 21, 2012

Most often when we look back on the things we focused on we find there was something else we should have focused on….and then maybe we shouldn’t focus at all…maybe we should just live and take it all in, every bit of it! There are many things I feel I “should” be doing but I”m really enjoying NOT doing them!

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

That’s it, Suzi! Maybe we should just LIVE and take it all in . . . constantly asking, “What do I want to do NOW?”

Eat when hungry.
Sleep when tired.

And play nicely with the rest of the colony. 😀

5. Ruth - February 21, 2012

Eric Maisel would say (e.g., Van Gogh Blues) we have to create our own meaning from moment to moment. I think it’s simpler than that: In whatever task I’m at, do I find myself cringing, dragging, counting seconds (till I’m done)… or am I so immersed in the doing I’m completely unaware of time passing? In the former case, even the most worthy projects feel like “killing time”; in the latter, it’s as if time doesn’t even exist.

Time is dead – long live Now!

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Love it, Ruth! I think that’s true. If we are “suitably engaged,” we exist only in the eternal NOW . . . and we become oblivious to the passage of time.

6. SidevieW - February 21, 2012

lol, a healthy society is one in which the engineers are at least double the number of lawyers

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

That’s great, Sidey! Of course, without the lawyers, would the engineers have any incentive to “get it right” or would the buildings, bridges, and roadways collapse into the sea? 😉

SidevieW - February 21, 2012

real engineers build for centuries;-)

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Even if their buildings lean a little to the left . . . like the Tower of Pisa. 😉

7. BrainRants - February 21, 2012

A great quote I heard once went something like: “The real mark we leave on the world is what we do for others.” More people need to make that their tunnel.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

But that assumes that the “colony” as a whole is doing something worthwhile. If not, if all the ants are engaged in pointless busywork, why bother helping them to continue? Maybe it would be best for the colony to die out.

8. kateshrewsday - February 21, 2012

Every day should have its time to stand and stare, Nancy. Even on tough days like today I am filled with amazement at what my world has to offer me.

kateshrewsday - February 21, 2012

(course, we’re assuming ants don’t stand and stare. HAve we slowed down their motion – is it relentless? I’d be really interested if in their relative timescale any of them did have time to stop and look at stuff….)

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

The world offers lots of stuff for us to enjoy . . . but what, if anything, do we add to the equation that is not for our own benefit?

From my perspective . . . NOTHING. We build roads for us. We build buildings for us. We build factories to make stuff for us.

If none of us were here . . . would the world miss us? Or would it issue a great *SIGH* of relief?

9. souldipper - February 21, 2012

Too true, Nancy. I look at those who claim to be “ragingly busy”. What they really want to say is “I am important.”

Then, there are those who refuse to use the word “no” – then want compassion and understanding from others in their world.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Yes! Exactly right, Amy. People want to be perceived as “important” by their fellow ants. They wear their busyness as a badge of honor.

And, stepping back still further to look at the colony as a whole, humans want to think that what they do is important. They want to believe that we have somehow added something of value to the soup of life . . . even if all we are doing is stirring the pot and spoiling the broth for other inhabitants.

Only humans (and their pets) benefit from farms, factories, roads, bridges, libraries, and art museums ~ just as only ants benefit from the tunnels they build to nowhere.

10. sufilight - February 21, 2012

Nancy, I think this comes from my corporate days, but I generally have this little nagging, silly little voice making me feel “guilty” if I am not doing something worthwhile, and life being what it is, I am not always doing something worthwhile. I know this is all in my head. 😉

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Maybe NOTHING we do is worthwhile . . . most of what we have done only matters to the “human colony.” If we weren’t here, who would benefit from the bridges, museums, and roads?

Most of our “progress” has come at the expense of Planet Earth and her other inhabitants. We advance our desires for MORE, MORE, MORE by polluting the air, earth, and water.

Maybe it’s time to stand back and stop digging long enough to figure out how to allow the “colony” to survive and thrive WITHOUT killing the host in the process.

Crowing Crone Joss - February 21, 2012

well said, very well said.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Thanks, Joss. When I step back from the trees to see the forest . . . I wonder if we have advanced the ball at all. 😉

11. Maggie - February 21, 2012

That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what we do… and if that’s what we are proud of doing. Or if we would be proud to have those things listed in our obituary. We shouldn’t do things just for the sake of keeping busy, but for a higher purpose in our lives.

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Obituaries (and resumes) are funny creatures . . . designed as they are to list “what we’ve done” with the minutes and hours alloted to us. How different they would read if we highlighted the WHO rather than the WHAT.

Mine might read: “She loved to laugh!” 😆

12. ElizOF - February 22, 2012

What a frightening thought… but my observations and yours point at the facts… We are busy, busy… sometimes needlessly. 😉

nrhatch - February 22, 2012

And it was your post on time that brought it to mind as I pictured all the little ants marching to the tick of the clock. 😉

13. JannatWrites - February 22, 2012

I love Scott Adams’ humor. Being a cubicle dweller myself, I have experienced some of the ridiculousness of it all.

I dig tunnels with my day job, but it earns money to pay the bills and it’s not totally unpleasant. I have a job where I work 7.5 hours a day and rarely have to work extra hours, so I have time to do what makes me feel alive (time with the family, writing, camping, reading blog posts that make me stop and think about where my tunnels lead, etc. 🙂

nrhatch - February 22, 2012

When I read the comics, I smile at a few . . . but I often snort out loud at Dilbert. One of my favorites:


If we want to stay alive, we need to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves. Unless we’re self-sufficient frontier types, we need to trade our time for $’s and those $’s for things.

But once we have “enough money” to stay alive . . . digging more tunnels for more $’s is not always the best use of our limited time on the planet.

14. sweetdaysundertheoaks - February 22, 2012

“The more I ponder the meaninglessness of MOST of what we do here, the happier I become.”~I love this Nancy 🙂 I can remember when CH and I both were busy, busy, busy and absolutely going nowhere. Nowhere that was where we wanted to be and certainly not “immersed in the doing”. A thought/phrase which I love too~thank you Ruth! Now I feel that we a “suitably engaged” as you say, and I feel that every second of every minute of every hour of every day is filled with feeling what is happening right now and I don’t find myself so lost and the worry button is off about things that are in the future or were in the past for that matter. All that matters is right now which makes life so much less complicated for me and I prefer these “right nows” to be happy and I am the driver of that bus. 😉 I want to be smiling. And I am, more than ever before. Not just on the outside, but truly happy from within. I used to tell CH that I used to feel this wonderful happiness and a feeling of warmth and peacefulness way down in my tummy(have no idea why I described that way) and that I hadn’t felt that way in so long. Now it is back. Interesting post Nancy and comments are great too.

nrhatch - February 22, 2012

I LOVE this comment, Pix. What a wonderful thing to encounter first thing in the morning.

I’m reading “Letting Go” by Gus Finley, In it, he reminds us that we need to be “the driver of the bus.” When we let go of the extraneous, and kick the “false self” out of the driver seat, the “essential self” surfaces . . .and warmth and peacefulness flood our BEING.

So glad that you’ve turn your “worry button” off so that you can enjoy your “right nows.” 😀

sweetdaysundertheoaks - February 22, 2012

I will have to check out “Letting Go”. I am still reading Zen Living and learning how to live! Good Morning Nancy in Florida! You and BFF enjoy your Wednesday.

nrhatch - February 22, 2012

I think you would LOVE this book, Pix. A paraphrased excerpt:

You have never been afraid of X. The only thing you have ever been frightened by is your own thoughts about X. Yes, you did feel fear, but the fear you felt was in what you thought about X. Amazing, isn’t it? You have been afraid of your own thoughts! Now you can let those thoughts go.

Have a GREAT day, Pix!

15. Opportunity: Take It And Run « JannaTWrites's Blog - February 23, 2012

[…] me in letting go, was Nancy’s blog post Killing Time – Building Tunnels to Nowhere because it made me think about how best to spend my time.  Unfortunately, some “tunnels to […]

nrhatch - February 23, 2012

Ooh, can’t wait to read it. But . . . it’s LUNCHTIME! 😉

16. spilledinkguy - February 23, 2012

Wowza! Those are some fast ants! 😉
I wish I had that kind of speed – maybe I could get through all the tunneling a bit quicker!

nrhatch - February 23, 2012

Haha! Frenetic activity . . . but they are going NOWHERE fast.

“Move along, people. There’s nothing to see here.”

17. judithhb - February 23, 2012

I like the phrase Building tunnels to nowhere – building tunnels of time. If I had a truck load of ants perhaps I could get my To Do list finally cleared.

nrhatch - February 23, 2012

Hi Judith! I am finding that the best way to clear my To Do list is to ignore the non-essential items that don’t add to my enjoyment of life.

So, yes, I will prepare my taxes . . . but, no, I will NOT read the paper from cover to cover to try to get a handle on what everyone else in the world is doing. I’ll focus my attention on “my own backyard.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

18. Perfecting Motherhood - February 24, 2012

I love Dilbert, it is so true. You’d think Scott Adams has worked in a cubicle every day of his work.

nrhatch - February 24, 2012

Dilbert is one of the only comic strips in our paper that makes me laugh out loud. Another that used to make me laugh with great regularity ~ Calvin and Hobbes.

Both are so “true” that it hurts. 😆

19. Team Oyeniyi - February 26, 2012

With all due respect to you, Nancy, I have to love Dilbert!!!

nrhatch - February 26, 2012

Me too! Dilbert cracks me up and I love that Scott Adams gave Uncle Milton’s lawyers “the finger” so discretely. What a mind!

As for lawyers . . . much of the order in society results from lawyers and laws.

When Dick the Butcher (Shakespeare) said, in Henry VI, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” ~ he meant that disorder would result and they could gain power in the midst of mayhem.

But . . . much of the discord in society stems from too many lawyers chasing ambulances to lay blame for their client’s stupidity and lack of responsibility on someone else.

As in all things . . . balance is needed.

And comedians and comic strips are just what we need to remind us of that necessary balance.

20. Snakes, Sharks, and Lawyers | Spirit Lights The Way - January 25, 2014

[…] posts:  My Favorite Lawyer Joke (circa 1770) * Killing Time ~ Building Tunnels to Nowhere * A Talking Frog & Other Engineering […]

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