When the lilies were still in bloom a month ago, I went counting lily blossoms every day. I knew that my practice had almost no socially redeeming value. I knew that no one else cared about the number of lily blossoms in my yard, and that the actual number did not interest me so much as the counting itself.
I recorded the results of counting in my daybook, but the record did not support theories of climate change. In fact, it supported nothing at all.
So why did I do it, really?
First, when I was counting lilies, I was not thinking of other things. For a few minutes each day, counting lilies disconnected me from national and world problems. I did not worry about the future nor did I ruminate about the past. I just counted.
Second, counting lilies was a form of procrastination. The more lilies there were, the longer I could delay doing other things that I actually needed to do.
Third, counting my own lilies was an utterly free practice. I was in competition with no one. No one else counted my lilies. Safe in the meaninglessness of counting lilies, I was loose in the world, unfettered by what was good or bad.
Fourth, I watched myself counting lilies. The more I counted lilies, the more I learned about myself. Little by little old self-definitions became diluted I was neither old nor young, respected nor disrespected. I was just a person on whatever day it happened to be, for a few moments, counting lilies.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I'll be back again next week with notes for the third week of late summer. In the meantime, lily season is over, but you could still count almost anything.