Necessary action

Necessary Action for Growth and Happiness

“They will say commonly, meddle not with many things, if thou will live cheerfully. Certainly there is nothing better than for a man to confine himself to necessary actions; to such and so many only. … For since it is so, that most of those things, which we either speak or do, are unnecessary; if a man shall cut them off, it must needs follow that he shall thereby gain much leisure, and save much trouble, and therefore, at every action a man must privately by way of admonition suggest unto himself, What? May not this that I now go about, be of the number of unnecessary actions? Neither must he use himself to cut off actions only, but thoughts and imaginations also, that are unnecessary for so will unnecessary consequent actions the better be prevented.” ~Marcus Aurelius

Necessary Action

What is or isn’t a necessary action is a complex matter.

There are those who argue that we should take no actions at all in the sense of trying to change or prevent anything. If we see someone being murdered, robbed, or raped, we should just observe and do nothing. They say that everything is happening as it should and we have no business trying to interfere. I call that the driftwood philosophy. The idea that we should just float through live like a piece of driftwood and contribute nothing. Be as worthless and as pointless as we possibly can.

On the other side, there are those who think we should get involved with everything and learn from everything. Nothing is taboo or pointless. The problems with this philosophy are two. First, you wear yourself out trying to do too much and consequently accomplish little. Second, by trying to do everything, you do things that should not be done at all. Like the punk in Washington D. C. some years ago who shot a sixteen-year-old boy who was just mowing the lawn. When caught, he said he did it because he had never killed anyone before and wanted to know what it felt like. Some knowledge is not worth gaining.

Our Own Necessary Action

Exactly how much each of us should get involved is something that varies and we each need to decide for ourselves. Some things can help. As Aurelius says, before getting involved ask if the action is truly necessary. Sometimes, though, even if action is necessary, we may not be the best ones to act. If we don’t have the skills and knowledge to resolve the situation, it is often best for us to let someone else handle it. Even if we have the skills, there may already be enough people working on the problem and we should move on to something else. Also, if we spread ourselves too thin, we don’t devote enough time to anything to really help.

It’s a lot like trying to decide which charities to support. There are so many charities that do good work that if we supported each with only a dollar, it would cost thousands! So we all pick just a few to help with. We must do the same with our actions. Continue reading “Necessary Action for Growth and Happiness”

active knowledge

Active Knowledge Worth More than Idle Knowledge

“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.

“If your knowledge teaches you not the value of things, and frees you not from the bondage to matter, you will never come near the throne of truth.

“If your knowledge teaches you not to rise above human weakness and misery and lead your fellow man on the right path, you are indeed a man of little worth and will remain such till judgment day.

“Learn the words of wisdom uttered by the wise and apply them in your own life. Live them—but do not make a show of reciting them, for he who repeats what he does not understand is no better than an ass that is loaded with books.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Active Knowledge

It should be clear to anyone that active knowledge is better than inactive knowledge. It should also be clear that knowledge is better than ignorance. Yet knowledge that is not put to use is pointless. It’s like freezing to death in the cold while clutching a heavy coat in your hands.

Every few years, we hear of some homeless person who dies and then it is fond that the person has many thousands of dollars in the bank. He could easily have afforded a comfortable apartment instead of sleeping in the streets. But he thought money was something to hoard rather than a tool to be used. Having knowledge and not putting it to use is much like that guy.

Of course, how you use knowledge depends on the kind of knowledge. Knowledge of medicine won’t help you build a bridge. Knowledge of manufacturing cloth won’t feed the hungry, but it can help cloth the naked. Spiritual knowledge may not help much with problems in the physical world, but it can help if put into action for spiritual growth. It is even more important that spiritual knowledge be active knowledge than with basic knowledge of matter.

Above Human Weakness

Not all knowledge is equal and Gibran, being a spiritual teacher as well as a poet, is interested primarily in that knowledge which aids in spiritual growth. I don’t think I would go so far as to say a person whose knowledge is limited to the mundane world is a “man of little worth,” but such knowledge certainly isn’t as good as spiritual knowledge. The materialists will, of course, argue otherwise. The materialist is making those decisions based on partial and distorted knowledge that cannot really be considered truth. And if it isn’t truth, it isn’t knowledge. Active knowledge should be spiritual knowledge. Continue reading “Active Knowledge Worth More than Idle Knowledge”