The Will to Act
Why does humanity fear the unknown? Why do we hesitate to act, when we know full well that we crave the purpose that creation brings?
“It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.”
If you wish to be a writer, write. If you wish to be an athlete, train. If you wish to be a creator, create. This is the difference between a dream and a vision. The dreamer creates fantastical worlds that rarely reflect the complexity of day to day reality that would be entailed in living that dream. As Fitzgerald said in This Side of Paradise, “It was always the becoming he dreamed of, but never the being”. The visionary acts, and through their action better comprehends the process necessary to reach the object of their vision. The way is made by walking in it.
When defining the need for action it is important to distinguish between goal driven action and responsive action. Responding to stimuli is a different psychological activity than creation. Creation requires a goal. Acting towards the manifestation of a goal (whether that is building a house or a worldview) necessitates intentionality. Think of the difference between reading a book and watching a movie. One requires the active participation of imagination to create mental pictures that correspond with the symbols on the page. The other requires a passive reception of stimuli.
Intentional action creates the opportunity for personal growth. Only through action can experiential learning exist. It is by acting and failing that we learn. The stories we tell ourselves about these failures dictates our continued willingness to act. The scientific method glorifies failure because each failure properly analyzed teaches us how to be less wrong. Conversely, the ego driven mindset sees failure as a reflection of personal value and avoids action out of fear of humiliation.
“He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”
We avoid action because we fear the unknown. Even worse, we do not act because we do not want to disturb the illusion of safety that the status quo provides. As we move further along the path of risk avoidance, we are paralyzed into inaction. This is how the modern human animal engages with its own life; as a series of risk mitigation measures to be implemented. Not in an active attempt to create but out of a deeply ingrained desire to conform. It is human nature to seek belonging through shared beliefs and experiences. It is human genius to push boundaries and create.
Humanity has proven that “impossible” is only defined by our lack of imagination. Our species has time and time again created innovations that would be indistinguishable from magic to our ancestors. None of this magic would be possible without those who were willing to repeatedly take actions that resulted in failure. Some of these failures have been catastrophic and even fatal for the actor, but all innovation depends on those who are willing to risk failure.
Life is growth. As the great American poet Bob Dylan sings, “he who is not busy being born is busy dying”. Plants grow by taking the chaos of a burning star and harnessing it into the energy necessary to transform water and minerals into living matter. Plants are the foundation of all life on earth. It is no great leap of logic to say that the foundation of life itself is the process of turning chaos into growth. And we must always remember that the process of death begins where growth ends.