The plus and minus

Being happy is as much about what you don’t do. Don’t eat so much; spend less; “say little but think much” (by late father’s favourite); avoid confrontation; don’t be accusatory of others; “flattery is a net before another man’s feet” (my personal favourite); “do what you do best, outsource the rest” (another one I have learned to live by – the hard way, naturally); if it doesn’t feel good, forget it (a variation on “trust your instincts“); let it go; accept that for the most part, nobody’s listening and nobody cares; don’t bother saving the world; know when to quit; don’t assume you know what they’re thinking; don’t care if they know what you’re thinking.

It is tempting to engage in futile activity. There’s always an initial allure, often promoted by a mistaken belief in our own righteousness, wisdom, knowledge or accuracy. Just because we learn to keep our mouth shut – or avoid jumping into the lake – doesn’t imply we must resort to a life of either placidity or saccharine behaviour. There’s plenty to do without engaging in what not to do. The simple undertaking of learning to respond to what we like to do is time-consuming enough. This is a task which is often clouded or overshadowed by what someone else thinks we should do with the little time we have on this planet – even though the prescription is filled with reputed good intention.  My experience is that such direction – usually uninvited – is fraught with ulterior motive that has nothing whatever to do with what is in your best interests. It’s just another example of people mistakenly doing what they shouldn’t bother to do.

We can’t always blame others for stimulating us to do what we don’t want to do.  We can accomplish a good deal of harm in that sphere without the assistance of others. If we allow ourselves to be persuaded by what we imagine is tolerable or preferable by others’ standards we’re on a potentially dangerous course. Even if things turn out fine in the end, it is a mere accident if it wasn’t a project calculated by us based upon our own ingredients.

The inclination to destroy a particular conduct as the reason for doing so is both unnecessary and harmful to both sides of the debate. With a bit of mere abstinence it is easy to characterize inactivity without detailing the reputed reasons for doing so.