Impossibility of Doing Nothing

We humans, as all organisms, are shaped by our genes and environment. Purpose of an organism is to survive in an environment until it reproduces. Humans have evolved to the point where we have an option of doing nothing. But is it possible?

First the environment, I look at the world through lenses of Western culture and civilization even though I have travelled around the world and learned about other cultures. Culture is the main part of environmental filter for us and geographical location has only minor effect on an individual when you look at the holistic picture.

It was Max Webber who coined the term protestant work ethic over 100 years ago. This attitude has been one of the key factors in the success of Western culture in the past 500 years and in short it means living to work and devoting to god by working hard. This perspective has dominated thinking of work in Northern Europe, UK, Canada and USA until now, in might be in the decline in modern secular world but still effects on how we see the world and ourselves.

You always have this noise in the back of your head, saying that you need to do something and be efficient even when you are on a holiday. You are even procrastinating by doing something “useful and necessary” like cleaning. “Doing nothing is a waste of time and money!” Says the voice inside your head.

Second the biology, it is physically impossible to do nothing, even when you die your body starts to decompose immediately. Instead of always doing something, minimizing or avoiding physical work, or any action, to secure basic needs such shelter and nutrition is smart. All things in nature have this tendency. This leaves energy to fulfill highest echelons of Maslow´s hierarchy of needs pyramid. It´s the very thing I am doing when I wrote this and you are doing by reading this. Still we are doing something. It seems that doing nothing is another paradox of life since doing nothing would still be doing something.

Even when you are just concentrating in the moment, cleaning your mind from all thoughts, you are still hooked in the stream of existence. A fun fact is that you can´t even concentrate on the present since it takes some milliseconds for your brain to construct a picture from the information received by your senses or concentrating thoughts from the lightning storm of synapses. You are therefore condemned in always doing something.

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_work_ethic

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13 thoughts on “Impossibility of Doing Nothing

      • Critique without argumentation tells more about its giver than its target. Protestant work ethic is one factor which helps you to understand the western culture. There is a big difference between the natives in the islands of the Pacific Ocean and western countries. One option is moving to the top of the pillar but even that doesn’t give you a relief.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites

      • Simeon Stylites lived on the top of a pillar for 37 years, before that he lived in a cave and a hut. In that link he is said to inspire others to do the same and that he also preached the message of temperance and compassion. In any case he seemed to be an intriguing person who was even corresponding with emperors. I have also thought about a life of solitude maybe I will not stand on pillar for decades, but spending months or about a year in the Himalayas in solitude of a Buddhist monastery is in in my future plans. There I would think, write and see what to do next in my life.

  1. First of all, I have to thank you for this blog. For me this have been a mind blowing experience which was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. The chance to explore the universe of consciousness is an offer you can’t refuse. I have learnt a lot and this has gave me also hope that there is light in the end of the tunnel for the humankind. Now I’m convinced that I have to try to do my best for the humankind because it deserves it. I am a part of the humankind and its collective consciousness so making my remarkable contribution to the common benefit I also help myself. In order to respect yourself you have to also respect the cosmos. Deceiving, stealing, violating or ignoring the other people, humankind or cosmos one also harming himself. The cosmos is like a mirror: what ever you do it will response you back.

    That is why I hope that you are able to fulfill your dream and spend one year in solitude of a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas or somewhere else. If you can clear your mind and maybe have an enlightenment experience it will be for the benefit of the humankind. Everyone is able to change the world because one is able to change himself. For example reducing one’s personal consumption of the natural resources is very important step towards sustainable world’s economy.

    There is only one problem in this blog: it’s too good which makes me to think about it all the time 😦

    • You are welcome my friend. I have now exceeded my expectations when even one person is as excited as I am about these topics. There are not many people in my social circle who share my passion for pursuit of knowledge, pondering and discussing these of kind topics in length. Thanks to internet we have been able to share our consciousness in the quest of sharing and creating information. I just started my last year in university so I might not post as frequently as I did during the summer. Anyway, it makes me happy to know that my thoughts have benefited you in broadening your awaraness of the Universe.

      My primary goal in life to increase knowledge and underestanding of the Universe and all other things are secondary. This might be the reason to the problem you have with this blog. 🙂

  2. Definitely that is one reason. Other reason is that at the moment I am doing my master’s thesis and every time I start doing it and open the computer I’ll start surfing the internet instead. I have “done” my work already two years. By the way, I started my triumphant university career in the faculty of mathematics. When I was in the high school, it was absolutely clear for me that I’ll become a physicist. I wanted to be a scientist. But after entering the university I lost my interest completely. In the school I was talented in maths but terrible at languages.

    Good luck for your last struggle in the university.

    • What changed your mind and interests? Personal experiences or introspection? Are you doing your thesis in the field of mathematics or physics? Thank you, it is hardly a struggle but when I am done I have something to come back to if I need to work Western countries. I am planning to spend some time on the road and ponder what to do next.

      • I don’t know. Maybe I had started the process of changing my mind before I entered to the faculty of mathematics because after the matriculation examination I read to philosophy entrance exam but I didn’t go to the exam. The book was Esa Saarinen’s “Länsimaisen filosofian historia huipulta huipulle”. I think it is quite a childish but I didn’t think that way when I studied the book.

        It was a good guess. My thesis is somekind of combination of philosophy, mathematics and physics. It’s about the global financing system and its Achilles heels.

      • Most of the time we notice a change only after it has happened. With vigilant introspection one can perceive inner changes as they occur. Your thesis topic is fascinating, I would like to read when it is done.

      • In finnish, but the great part of the sources are english. The problem is that I couldn’t read fast enough english, but I’m making progress in that constantly. And then there is that economic jargon which is difficult to translate. I have written down over 100 pages text but they are only a raw material.

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