The Point of Something Useless

"Aristotle said that the best activities are the most useless. This is because such things are not simply means to a further end, but are done entirely for their own sake."  

I don't need reminders to organize, to keep to my schedule, to work hard, to do just one more thing.  Some people, many people, do but I've got all sorts of Martha down pat, thank you kindly.  Good things in their proper place to be sure, but only to be used as a means to a different, higher, and better end.

  What I need are reminders such as the above taken from Father Robert Barron.  (I so very highly recommend the Catholicism series from which it came.  It is phenomenally done and a great way to deepen your knowledge of the crazy thing we call Catholicism.)

I need reminders to breathe.  To live.  To enjoy.
Reminders that this life is not about how many things I accomplish.  That the quality of a day is not to be determined by how many tasks I cross off my list.  

Efficiency is my calling card.  A gift sometimes but a dangerous one.  One that tempts me to measure a moment by how productive I am.  An incessant hum of One Thing More. 

Maybe I want to prove my worth.  To show that I'm good enough.  I'm not a mistake.  Keep me around, please, would you?  Surely if I get everything done and done just so, then I will be worthy.  Lovable.  After it is all done, then, of course, I will relax, enjoy, LIVE.  Because I truly do want that.  We all do.  

But everything is never done and so I strive and work and stress and break while He murmurs over and over I just want YOU.  You.  

"In this sense, the most useless activity of all is the celebration of the Liturgy, which is another way of saying that it is the most important thing we could possibly do. There is no higher good than to rest in God, to honor him for his kindness, to savor his sweetness—in a word, to praise him."

Maybe that is why I love the Liturgy so much.  It is the one place where I can find rest.  Where I feel okay about not "doing" anything.  What a sweet peace there is in that.   The peace for which we were made.

Perhaps, just maybe, if I can better value the useless, I will be better able to breathe.  To praise.  To grow.  To receive.  To love.

And perhaps Aristotle is right that those are the best activities of them all.


  1. this is a beautiful reflection!

  2. Oh, I am so bad at useless..."it's my one weakness," said Dorcas Lane.

    But I will try!


    I have such difficulty in not doing something that is a 'have to' or 'on the list'

    I am going to head off to bed and ponder this before I fall asleep. I am really not sure I can do one thing useless - every day, no less! I have the gift to turn anything useless to useful and have to and no fun - or so my children tell me.

    Excellent post!


  4. So funny, I guess I am more a Mary. I have been struggling to not give into my desire to do nothing. I have been fighting to keep doing the useful, when it seems so much easier to sit on the couch and look at Facebook.


    1. It's definitely a temperament thing! And I think maybe I should have clarified that the useless things perhaps need to be "ranked." I have a Facebook weakness as well which is why I've been staying far away from it this week and doing the "useless" things that are so much worthier, if that makes sense. Playing with the kids, Mass, reading, etc. That kind of stuff.

  5. Hi Mary! I've been reading for a few months and I don't think I've commented yet except maybe to sayimportanthow cute your boys are :) I've been meaning to email you actually so maybe I will get to that soon.

    Anyway. Today I want to say "yes yes yes!" I will join you:) This post really hits at something so important and I was really happy to read it today. We're just trying to get settled in a new home (new town new state!) So there is always plenty to do that is useful.

    More I would like to add but the baby is crying! I will be back :)

    1. So glad you're here, Tamara! Thank you for your comment. And yes, with moving there is ALWAYS more to do and cross off the list. Hope you can find some ways to relax and be useless for a little bit :)

  6. I loved this post and I've been pondering it all day so thank you for writing it. I don't think I suffer from being too much like fact, I'm one of those who needs reminders to be more disciplined in my routines. I will say that somewhere I picked up the notion that it's selfish to spend time doing things we love to do just for their I'm being a bad mom for taking some time to enjoy something. I'm slowly learning that this thinking is soooo wrong! Thank you again for the reminder that God is found in the "useless".

    1. I forgot to add how much I love your pictures of the purple fields...gorgeous!

    2. Thanks, Elizabeth! Yep, it can be so hard to remember that it's okay for mom to actually enjoy something as well! I always shy away from the modern Oprah-y stuff that preaches "me time" and "pamper yourself" and all that because I think most modern people take that to the extreme but there are so many of us who DO need that reminder, right?? Even if it's just the little things like a cup of good coffee in the morning or time to read something just because. We need that time and those things sometimes to be able to be refreshed and better moms, I think.

  7. Gorgeous photos and spot-on analysis. I am so bad at balance that I waver wildly between Martha and Mary. Actually, not Mary. Just plain laziness. I oftentimes judge the value of my day on whether the house is clean when my hubby gets home. But I would really like to re-focus that into whether I prayed diligently and connected with my children.


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