To do is to beSocrates
As the year ends, I am always tempted to look back at the year in terms of what I have done. What people manage to do is amazing, and it is quite an experience to witness it on social media–people sharing the amazing work they have done over the year, how they feel like they haven’t done enough, how they look forward to doing more in the upcoming year.
I resist the temptation. I write to keep this temptation at bay.
In a culture that goes berserk with regard to productivity and reduces life (and ambitions) to work outputs and outcomes, a more important question for me is: how am I be-ing?
How am I be-ing in the relationships I maintain?
How am I be-ing at seeking and providing care for myself and others?
How am I be-ing in the larger system that contains me personally and professionally?
How am I be-ing in a life where I confront risks and uncertainties with greater frequency?
How am I actively be-ing?
One may have not done much for whatsoever reasons–whether that is personal heath, care-giving duties, external factors beyond one’s control, etc. But one is always be-ing in different spaces, intentionally or unintentionally.
Do-ing and be-ing are indeed false dichotomies, but they are different frames for thinking about action. Thinking through some of these questions has made me consistently reconfigure my relationship with success, ambition and the idea of doing good. It has also made me challenge the bias for action that has become commonsensical especially in the impact space, a formulation that does not adequately account for critical reflection, and the potential for doing good by not doing much in the status quo paradigm.