or The Art of Doing Nothing Ethically
Hey, we’re in this together, right? You and I? Writer and reader? Since you’re reading this exercise in narcissism (I’m clearly no philosopher), I’ll elaborate, and if you make it to the end, I think it will make sense—I think. Maybe it won’t, but I’m going to take you through my stream of thought now, regardless.
There are moments in life that allude to a change. The crest of dissatisfaction falls forward over the swell of immobilization, and life rolls over on top of itself until it smashes into the unmovable reality. Yes, I’m using a wave metaphor.
One could argue the whole of my world is steadily floating toward nothing in particular. I am not always sure what I want out of it all, and while there is some drive, some ambition, the disciplines I carry along with me are of the ‘flash in the pan’ form. I start strong and then rest on the ground I gain. It is reactionary, and I’m aware of its cycle within my life. These moments occur when I start to see the shoreline, the wind picks up, and I feel the tide tugging just beneath the surface.
And so I want a direction, trajectory, but where do I get it?
(Here it comes; hold on; o my heresies!)
It ‘starts’ on the days I believe in a god; I hope that he/she/it will illuminate the clouds in such a way that I know without a doubt that I have the correct plan, solid achievable goals, and the wherewithal to reach them. I feel empowered and purposeful, elegant and streamlined, capable and in control.
But in addition to the solidarity (the swell), I also feel dirty and sad, because I then accept that I can achieve no goodness on my own, throwing it back to the particular brand of Christianity in which I was brought up. If only God is good, what is my motivation, really (the roll)? If the destination of my soul hinges upon my ability to accept truth or god or salvation with pure motivations when at the center of my heart is depravity, then I suppose I’m doomed. Accepting eternal damnation is not the most pleasant of calculations, and I am lost again (the crash).
It’s a wave; get it?
But on the days I feel gravity pulling on the soles of my feet, which dangle over an abysmal chasm, I find myself wondering why I must try to find eternal incentive for selflessness. Can we retain balance between selfishness and selflessness on our own? Are motivations really ever pure? Perhaps we want more sex, more control, more acceptance, more validation, more, more, more, more, more.
These are the moments when I believe that I see my own reality and face my mortality and the prospect that maybe this is all the time I’ve been allotted. No eternity. Who is this person? I wonder. From where did he come? Was he born or created? I fear him, and yet, I also feel I rely on him to maneuver the absurdities and paradoxes that encircle us all as humans that feel and think and rationalize in the same way that I want the hope of a deity to guide me toward some light in the middle of hopelessness.
Both responses are emotionally driven. Both are loaded with varying degrees of discipline and sloth. I accept it.
Rationally, there are thousands of answers to ethical questions, from strongly argued stances, and when I stare them in the face, tracing my way across the wrinkles and finally settling on the pupils, I find myself falling and falling into the nothing. I am at once suspended between truths. I am safe. Checkmate, problems. You’re done—at least, for a while.
Part of me wants to argue that I am too safe and that it’s all too easy. The rationalization that nothing matters plays into the part of me which wants to sit and wait and do absolutely nothing about anything and everything.
What does it matter that I’ve just eaten a gallon of M&M’s while watching House of Cards for hours on end? I’ll workout. I’ll still look alright. Maybe I am giving myself an out, an excuse, a pardon to do whatever I want to do.
Perhaps I am wrong about being alone in the universe, and perhaps there’s some truth to there being something else out there in the vastness of what we’ve constructed and named “Time”. Maybe god is in control of it all. Maybe god is bigger than what I can rationalize.
Maybe god. Maybe nothing.
Riding the line is just too damn easy.
And the cycle occurs again. I am at once spinning and trying to guide myself safely toward the shore. But it isn’t a real shore. It isn’t real water. It isn’t even real. I made that shit up, agonized over it, and came to no conclusion.
A few months back I was talking to a friend of mine who confronted my spin cycle. He said, “You should make friends with some poor people,” and he was right about that. I have the luxury to pour over all of this bullshit all the time, and again and again, I find that I have no complete answers.
Am I doing anything to help anyone?
No, I’m not even trying. I’m waiting until I have it figured out. But really, I’m just putting off being a decent person.
And that’s where I am: full of shit. And honestly, I’m trying to change that. I want to do something about it. Why? Because I could remain in the process of trying to decide what’s right and wrong without ever actually doing either.
What kind of life is that? What’s a scientist if all he/she ever does is theorize without any experimentation?
So you and I? We should make some new friends. We should meet some poor people. We should do something. What should we do? I don’t know, but we can’t keep thinking about this shit. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” yes, but a life not lived is also not worth living.
Want to do something that matters? What about something that doesn’t?