Poets, Scripture, philosophers and songwriters have written about it and commented on its value. The poet William Henry Davies wrote, "What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare".
The Buddhist tradition has a saying, "Don't just do something: sit there" and this approach has now been incorporated into Mindfulness therapies.
'The book of Proverbs' advises us, "A fool gives full vent to his spirit but a wise man quietly holds it back", while Simon and Garfunkel have reminded us of the wonders of 'The Sound of Silence'.
These various references are not a recipe for laziness or sullenness, but are a celebration of stillness and its companion, silence.
But stillness and silence are in short supply in the 21st Century. Not only is activity seen as a virtue but quietness is even frowned upon.
The focus in popular literature instead is on exercise, activity and "meeting people". We are encouraged to join the gym, play sport and make friends.
All of this is, and always has been, acceptable. The problem is that now there is scant recognition of the contrary attributes of quietness, reflectiveness and the ability to be still.
The person who has the temerity to admit to not exercising in a structured manner or engaging in regular social activities is viewed as unusual.
Those who go for a short stroll alone in a quiet park or along our country roads without the ubiquitous earphones are singularly different from the large hoards who power walk, jog, and play hard at weekends. Modern offices are open-plan, constructed so as to maximise contact and, with it, noise.
A recent article in the Schumpeter column of the 'Economist' magazine captured the business world's attitude to silence and stillness.
'In praise of laziness, businesspeople would be better off if they did less and thought more' explored the pressure on them to be busy and to fill their diaries.
It mentions the impact of authors such as John Bernard, who offers advice at conducting "Business at the Speed of Now" as a response to the realisation that the millennial generation doesn't wait for anything.
Keith Frazzi instructs on how to make the most of your contacts so as to accomplish more in 'Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success. One Relationship at a Time'.
The upshot of this drive for activity and busyness, according to the article, is that Americans now work for eight hours more each week than they did in 1979 while one-third of working adults sleep six hours or less each night.
In addition, almost 40pc check their emails while at the dinner table. Yet this drive towards constant activity is new.
Many world leaders, even in the recent past, have been enthusiasts of the "let's think about it" policy. Ronald Reagan opined, "it's true that work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?", while Lord Melbourne, three times British prime minister between 1831 and 1841, coined the phrase "masterful inactivity".
The problems of incessant activity are obvious.
Concentration is likely to be impaired and feelings of tension rise if the body or the mind does not have sufficient rest.
Constant activity distracts us from contemplating new ideas and so impairs creativity.
It would be difficult to imagine our leading poet, Seamus Heaney, penning the verses he wrote if he were cooped up in an open-plan office.
He is a reminder of the creative powers of nature in all its stillness and silence.
Even more mundane are our responses to the day-to-day problems in our lives.
Sure, we can discuss them with friends or with health professionals, we can write to agony aunts, we can watch Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer if we are really desperate, but ultimately we need to think through the various solutions open to us and to weigh their long-term impact, an exercise that is impossible if our minds are crowded with other matters and we are frenetically active.
This exercise in cognitive processing requires time, it also demands focus and space, both emotional and mental, if it is to be successful.
It would be wrong to misconstrue this advice as a justification for doing nothing or for sloth.
There has to be a balance in our lives between activity and rest, between mental overload and introspection. At present the scales are definitely tipped in one direction only and this must be redressed.