On Aimlessness


Aimlessness has a rather bad reputation, in the West at least. Aimless people are generally seen as drifters, underachievers, or at best, rebels. But is aimlessness really condemnable? Must we always do something? Aim for something? Are we only the sum of our achievements or is there more to us than our diplomas, our houses and our cars, our reputation?

“Does the rose have to do something? No, the purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just as we are.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

But we are not roses growing in some wild garden, oblivious of our beauty. We are people. We are rational, self-conscious, social, and aspiring. It is in our nature to do things. We can’t help it. We can’t avoid making others happy or making them suffer. We can’t avoid going out that front door, even if it means getting into trouble.

“Most people cannot believe that just walking as though you have nowhere to go is enough. They think that striving and competing are normal and necessary.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

There used to be a time when I thought that I wouldn’t be happy unless I write a great novel, or unless a particular woman loved me, or unless I became a certain kind of person I desperately wanted to be. Perhaps I still have such longings, and perhaps they are fuelled by passion.

But there are many moments when, drifting into quietness, I find myself pleased by the simple realization of the present moment unfolding around me, and of its significance. This “now” moment, we will always have it – it will be ours until we die.  The now we have when we are young is just as valuable as the now we will have when old.

“There is no need to put anything in front of us and run after it. We already have everything we are looking for, everything we want to become.” – Thich Nhat Hahn

We can’t be aimless all the time – it’s just not our nature. But when we are, we shouldn’t feel too bad about it, whatever others say. A butterfly waltzing through the garden is rather aimless, don’t you think? And yet, doesn’t he look like the happiest thing under the sun?

When was the last time you were aimless? Did you enjoy it?

24 thoughts on “On Aimlessness

      1. Lately I’ve been introspective about the value of wandering as an artist. Creating what we create with a curious pleasure instead of what seems to be the present day obsession with production, flash and hustle.

        Just some thoughts . . . thank you for enriching them with your post.

  1. Amazing contemplation! I’ve be thinking about this precise topic these days and was feeling a little bit guilty for being in this state right now, but I quickly snapped out of it when I realised I’m going back to work in September and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna miss this…so I better enjoy it while it lasts. You just confirmed my thoughts. 🙂

    1. Aimlessly drifting on jazz rhythms, are you? A fine way to be aimless! Can I ask if the September business is work as a teacher or a more corporate sort of work? Because I think that as a teacher one can work and still drift aimlessly between classes. 🙂

      1. Yes, I will be teaching starting September, I am preparing myself to work in a place where I can grow and be even better than I am – it’s a little exciting, a little frightening…a balanced mix :). I know for sure I won’t be drifting aimlessly between classes…when I’m on teaching mode, I’m on purpose mode, but it’s a good thing that I’ll still have jazz with me…I take it everywhere. 😀

  2. Thoughtful post as ever.
    I’ve definitely been for many a flaneur – great word btw.

    I went for a walk today. The aim was to exercise, but I didn’t have an aimother than getting back home and I enjoyed walking, just going along, thinking throug ideas and stories.

  3. As a mother is difficult to be in that state, to be sincere I have forgotten the last time I was in it.
    I enjoyed this piece, thanks for sharing it.

  4. Aimlessness is in the air in here…all of us who are just out of school. And we don’t really seem to be enjoying it considering how society finds aimlessness to be synonymous with hopelessness. We badly needed a different perception on it I guess, thankyou for this. 🙂

  5. Vincent,


    I just wanted to thank you SOOOO much for taking the time to read the blog post I made that Cristian Mihai reblogged titled “Please Help Our Momma” (https://protomarq.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/helpourmomma/) about the on-going struggles that my family is facing after my mom was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. It’s been an uphill battle but we have been blessed with so much love, support and encouragement that I don’t know what we would have done without it. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things but just knowing that you took time to support our cause seriously means the world to me and my little family. I would like to humbly ask that if you are in the position to contribute something (anything!) to our cancer relief crowd funding campaign it would make a serious impact, even just $5.00, because every little bit makes such a HUGE difference. If you are unable to (and we completely understand) please, at the very least, consider reblogging the “Please Help Out Momma” post to your readers and/or share the campaign on whatever social media outlets you utilize for your readers because maybe we might get in front of the right people who have the means to help my family stay afloat during this time. Thank you so much! Here’s a direct link to the campaign as well. https://igg.me/at/Hz9-ILFN2P0

    Thanks again. Seriously!

    Christopher Michael

  6. Great post Vincent.

    I absolutely agree with your remark regarding Western culture and it’s emphasis on the “goal-oriented” life. I think many people experience aimlessness moments, but they do so, secretly, apart from the public sphere for the simple reason they want to avoid ridicule or the criticism of being someone who is wasting time.

  7. Great post – thank you. For me, being aimless is about just being present in the moment. As a working parent who tries to find time to write, my mind is often on the next thing I should be doing and I forget to pay attention to the moment I’m actually in.

    I agree that in Western and especially City culture, “downtime” is a bad word. Even commutes are wasted if we are not being productive as well. I’ve found myself much more focused in the chaos of daily life when I take moments during the day to just stop and experience the moment I’m in with no goal or thing to check off. Aimless is golden in those moments.

  8. To be honest this article is really self assuring. For a long while now I have been feeling aimlessness too, and quite poignantly. But I guess for now I should revel in this feeling but hopefully I will find my purpose in life, a driving (even slightly irrational) passion.

    1. Victor Frankl, a famous psychologist who survived the Holocaust says that we detect rather than invent our missions in life. Finding one’s meaning in life is a process, rather than a choice. 🙂

  9. Hi Vincent, I enjoyed this post, “On Aimlessness” very much, I think it holds hands nicely with your post, “Idleness”. I like that you quoted Viktor Frankl in one of your replies, quite touching and spot on. True, finding one’s meaning in life is a process, a lifelong process. Please enjoy the rest of your week. ~ Mia

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