Monday, January 09, 2006

To be or to do? That is the question...

I have this philosophical side, you know. I try to turn it off, or at least tune it out some days, but it’s not really in my nature. I wonder about … well… just about everything… almost all the time.

I haven’t had a philosophical posting in a while, so indulge me for a moment, OK?

One of the questions I get to ponder while I’m in “Earth School” (as my friend Davey J. would say) is “Being vs. Doing”.

Along with an almost insatiable wonderment about most topics, truth be told, I also have a quiet obsession with goals. I have dozens of them in my head at any given moment... specific ones about what needs to get done this year, this term, this month, this week… in the next ten minutes and vague ones like my 2006 theme of “strong body, light spirit”. I write some of them down, but mostly, I keep them silently catalogued in my head (or in this blog!)

I suppose you could say that I have done a respectable amount of stuff in my life so far… Mostly because I think I set my mind to do something and then do it. I set mini-goals each step of the way until I’ve done whatever it is I had in mind. (And of course, I think about each little mini-goal and the process that goes into achieving it, too… I wouldn’t be a philosopher unless I did…)

I have school goals, fitness goals, financial goals, travel goals, personal goals… and on and on the list goes. I can’t help it… I don’t really know how NOT to have goals.

I have learned that it isn’t wise to hyper-focus on them… but I haven’t learned how to completely turn them off either.

Haven’t learned how to just… be.

It’s the ultimate irony… To have a goal where the goal itself is to just be… Not do anything… just be.

The other irony is that I rather enjoy meditation… and can settle into the quiet tranquility required for it, without a lot of angst or frustration. That definitely requires less “doing” and more “being”.

With the start of the new school semester, I can foresee there will be many things to do. I ponder how it can be balanced with “being”.

Thoughts?

13 comments:

Chrystal said...

Interesting. I see your what you are getting at. I agree that we need to have goals so we don't become stagnant in our lives. Growing, learning, experiencing and expanding oneself is what it is all about right? But I'm wondering if the word you are looking for is "contentment". Although I have my own goals, I have learnt to be content with my life and what I have in it. Not complacent. It comes to a balance of liking who you are and where you are at but not sitting down on the path of life and saying "I'm done". It's in recognizing that we can fully appreciate not just our destinations...but the journey as well.

M A F said...

Being is the ability to let go of doing without suffering from the slings and arrows of your own fortune.

Of course, I draw cartoons...


As an aside, I watched the Party Leaders' Debate on C-SPAN2. I blogged about it.

ipodmomma said...

I have had to learn in a not so easy way about just 'being'...

used to be very much a person with lists... lots to do, get done, cross off...

then it all suddenly became meaningless, with the death of one much loved.. and since then it has been a road of learning what is most important...

but first I had a lot of personal growing to do... which led to slowing down, and simply being...

I knwo there are things I have to accomplish, but just for me, I have no longterm 'goals', no ideas of feeling like I must get here or there...

some might call it laziness, or an unwillingness to step on that neverending treadmill... but for my own happiness and well being, I have to just go this way, and see what this afternoon brings...

Sarah Elaine said...

Chrystal - No, the word is definitely being. Contentment is something else. I am quite happy with who I am... Though it's been a journey to get there.

IPM - I hear ya. Surprisingly, I've chilled out a lot since my Mum died. Being at her side and watching that happen changed my life. Perspective indeed.

Mac - Insightful. I wish I could express my thoughts through drawing the way you do!

madcapmum said...

Jean Vanier of L'arche writes a lot about "being" vs. "being our accomplishments". Typically, all I have is another book suggestion.

I got Visser's book from the library, btw, and hopefully will be starting it this week - thanks for the tip!

Turtle Guy said...

I don't have a lot of time to banter today, and I have several thoughts I'd like to share about your post! I thought I'd quickly leave you with this to read...

http://turtledave.blogspot.com/2006/01/reflection.html

Susan said...

That's a tough one. I'm not sure I know how to do that.

zouzou said...

You sound very zen. I think it's an "and" question rather than an "or" - both are needed for a fulfilling life. Doing is about the destination, being is about the journey. How one experiences the journey is where being comes in - you can turn it into a bunch of little "do" items for each step along the path, or you can have both "do" and "be items. I know several people who don't know how to be as well as they know how to do. We are a 'do' culture here in the west.

In my life, being is about letting go of the mini-goals and incorporating observation rather than planning. Rather than saying "I'll do this and this to get where I'm going", I say "I'll head in that general direction and see what happens next". Ultimately I think I may get less "done" than the next person, but it makes for more serenity. Too much doing stresses me out.

robtherunner said...

I wonder if just "being" is more attainable if a person does not have others in their lives that they have a responsibility for in some way, or another.

When you figure out how to not be focused on "doing" let me know. I am just like you in the category of always having a dozen goals going on inside my head, but I like it that way. I feel there is purpose when I have many things that I am working towards.

Turtle Guy said...

OK... more time at this end of the day to comment on your post. This could be fairly lengthy as I've included your original words:

I have this philosophical side, you know. I try to turn it off, or at least tune it out some days, but it’s not really in my nature. I wonder about … well… just about everything… almost all the time.

-----You're always "on" - I've noticed that. Not only is your BRAIN going constantly, thinking about everything, you physically MOVE consistently and often. It's very difficult for you to "turn off".

Along with an almost insatiable wonderment about most topics, truth be told, I also have a quiet obsession with goals. I have dozens of them in my head at any given moment... specific ones about what needs to get done this year, this term, this month, this week… in the next ten minutes and vague ones like my 2006 theme of “strong body, light spirit”. I write some of them down, but mostly, I keep them silently catalogued in my head (or in this blog!)

-----Is that typical of an "A-type" personality? I took one of those tests once to determine personality type and mine came up with "B" - with overtones of "A", I'm sure. I've noticed that you're also very attentive to detail: spelling, punctuation, grammar, neatness, cleanliness, procedure. You seem to be able to accomplish a great deal - seemingly all at once. I expect it's my perception of how you get things done, because at my BEST I struggle to do half the number of projects at any given time. Perhaps it's harder for you to "shut down" because you have so much on the go - the more you have, the more it takes to turn off.

I suppose you could say that I have done a respectable amount of stuff in my life so far… Mostly because I think I set my mind to do something and then do it. I set mini-goals each step of the way until I’ve done whatever it is I had in mind. (And of course, I think about each little mini-goal and the process that goes into achieving it, too… I wouldn’t be a philosopher unless I did…)

-----Making your mind up, deciding and doing is a great gift from where I stand. I struggle with decision making when it comes to daily-to-dos, planning and the like. As for matters concerning people and relationships, I pick up very quickly on character. I can tell in a very short time if someone will make a good friend or not. Deciding if "A" or "B" is the better "business" move... not my forte.

I have school goals, fitness goals, financial goals, travel goals, personal goals… and on and on the list goes. I can’t help it… I don’t really know how NOT to have goals.

-----Perhaps that's just how you are. In one context, just being includes just being who you naturally tend to be. In another, we've touched on "shutting down" and "just being" which is different. But if a person's function is to "do A" and "do B", isn't that "just being" for them? Perhaps when they "shut down", they aren't DOING "a" or "b", yet they are "just being" as in a state of neutral.

I have learned that it isn’t wise to hyper-focus on them… but I haven’t learned how to completely turn them off either.
Haven’t learned how to just… be.

-----I would say - from observation - that turning them off completely would be unnatural for you. Perhaps trying to turn them off completely is not the best objective. Perhaps finding your way to "just be" INCLUDES not shutting down completely - but finding a place where you're LESS in the "doing" mode and just a little more in the "being" mode. Heaven forbid such an active mind be shut down COMPLETELY.


It’s the ultimate irony… To have a goal where the goal itself is to just be… Not do anything… just be.

-----It's only ironic if you don't accept that "doing" is, in part, part of "just being".

The other irony is that I rather enjoy meditation… and can settle into the quiet tranquility required for it, without a lot of angst or frustration. That definitely requires less “doing” and more “being”.

-----Perhaps here in lies your place to "just be".

With the start of the new school semester, I can foresee there will be many things to do. I ponder how it can be balanced with “being”.

-----You have a tremendous ability to "do". Embrace it. Live it. Remember too, that "time for self" is very much a part of "being". Perhaps “just being” needs to make it on to the to “do” list. Reward yourself for "doing" and "doing" well. You will find the balance.

Constantine said...

As a notion it’s hard as hell to contemplate and resolve this "being" vs. "doing" dilemma. One irony is that when you (plural) are able in rare moments to focus on the former and achieve a modicum of success, you are actually "doing" but on a level that isn't just skin deep. By skin deep I mean all those things that we do almost by osmosis by playing the part of a hamster on a wheel--going all the time but never getting anywhere of consequence. Of course, some of those “things” are necessary to life unless one wishes to become a bum.

Also, some of our “doing,” when it’s in alignment with our vocation, may indeed be also a part of “being.”

I suppose it's akin to the whole chronos vs. kairos living. And in some respects I would surmise that kairos moments are more a matter of "grace" than volitional in nature, though I suspect one can foster opportunities where kairos is more apt to appear.

Who the hell knows? It's a mystery.

ipodmomma said...

well, if you get over here sometime, you are most welcome to visit Yorkshire!! :)))

where is your family here?

wthenrest said...

I find the comments about this very interesting and varied. I know many people think about this. I have to agree with zouzou. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. If you are 'meditating' and still making lists of things in your head....in effect, you are still doing, not ‘being’. 'Being', to me, is to be happy when and where you are now. That doesn't mean you give up goals or dreams. You can be happy in general, but your subconscious may be processing (Just speaking personally of course). Trying to be, just says that you acknowledge the ‘now’ in your life rather than the tomorrow...because we know tomorrow is unpredictable. That is the fantastic thing about it. Plus, you never know how to get somewhere if you don't know where you are, right?