In a way, humans are materialists. I’m not talking about the conventional criticism that humans, especially in a capitalist society, think only about consumption, about the endless quest to amass more and more goods. That’s spot on but not relevant here.
I am concerned about the way western cultures (I know too little about other belief systems to include them in this speculation) ‘naturally’ seem to think much more easily about the tangible world than the ‘hidden’ world. We easily think about things in front of our eyes but not the unobservable; about what people do but not what they don’t do; about the now/present but not about the past or the future; about the body but not about the mind and the feelings, about our successes but not about our failures; about what we win but not about what we lose – and the list could go on an on.
Let’s look closer at one little thing. In fact, let’s look at ‘doing’. We assess or judge ourselves and others by what they have done or are doing – more often than not in terms of its consequences, good or bad or mixed. Then we leave it there. We rarely do further and consider what we or they did ‘not’ do. If they did not do something then, we unwisely assume, they did ‘nothing’. End of discussion.
But that is looking only at half the picture. We don’t think – and our language usage makes it more difficult to think – that ‘doing nothing is actually doing something’ – it has consequences just as much if we had done something quite tangible. It is obviously so when you think of examples. If you always say ‘goodnight’ to your partner before going to sleep, but not say it on one occasion, that absence can produce significant results. If you don’t reply to a legal correspondence that can produce serious consequences.
If a mining company fails to take certain structural precautions, it can pollute an area destroying the livelihood of the indigenous people. If a government does nothing over a period of time pertaining to mental health, the consequences for the community can be dangerous. If a state does nothing or little to fully evaluate a situation, it may go to war which is needlessly destructive of another country, which cannot be won, which disables the government spending more on critical domestic issues because of (military) expenses elsewhere, which distracts the state’s attention from another global issue of far greater importance, and we could continue.
Doing nothing is certainty doing something and it can at times be lethal.
So it could be a good idea to keep an eye, a new eye, on yourself and on others, from this new perspective.