What do you do?” “When are you going to do it?” “Don’t just talk about it. Do it!” “Actions speak louder than words!” “What have you done?!”
Are we defined by what we DO? Or even by what we are perceived to do, or have done? When people meet for the first time they are asked their names and then “What do you do?” Our job categorises us into convenient niches. People think they have the measure of us depending on what their values are. But what if we change careers or jobs, or have retired or unemployed? Are we nonentities if we retire from employed work? Or if we cannot get employment or have conditions that may make those impossible or much curtailed. What of how we are seen and valued then?
The questioner is in variably placing us socially or otherwise in relation to them? Who will have the higher status, and this will dictate how they will treat us.
Do actions speak louder than words? Actions do lead to quantifiability. They can be counted, measured against set criteria, and their effectiveness classified in terms of what is expected. Because of them we can be made accountable, blamed or even scapegoated.
Are actions and words the only alternatives? Are we as human beings as simple as that, or capable or being reducible to that? What of our imagination, creativity, range of emotions, psychological well-being etc etc? Are we not also spiritual beings (in the wider sense)? Are we not also eco-beings, animals, a species among other species on this planet earth?
Also are we only to be seen as individuals? Are we not also relational beings, interdependent on others in small and large groups. Do we not get much of our sense of who we are in the worked-out relationships with those others? Some cultures lend much more emphasis upon us a being part of the community, and how that also describes us in ways that our deeds or career do.
What if HOW we CHOOSE to BE were to be valued much more than what we CHOOSE to DO? That is not to lessen our actions but to put them in the context of HOW OR WHOwe choose to BE. So our “being” connects with our “choosing” and out of this combination comes our “doing”. It also implies that we are not just a bundle of “drives” or imperatives, demands, duties or requirements. We are agents of our lives and destinies, and not the victims of them (unless we choose to be, of course!). Thus we take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our being and our doing.
This is not just a random process. It implies a higher order of choice. We need to choose the meaning or purpose of life that makes most sense to us, among a vast range of competing offerings. We need to choose the DIRECTION in which we wish to travel. The journey is vital as we live it moment by moment. The destination may change. We control the journey.
I suggest that we are more described by our chosen journeys than our destinations.