The dichotomy of action and inaction

“To be, or not to be: “ – thus begins the famous soliloquy of Hamlet, as he ponders over the question of life and death. That was ages ago, and Prince Hamlet probably had enough time to kill ( even though he already had his hands full 😉 ) , to be engaging in such thought experiments. Fast forward to the current era, and we find ourselves milling around, trying to survive in this world. For us, time is money, and the luxury of engaging in such thoughts is affordable only to a select few. People find it more productive to make good use of the time in hand, rather than question the purpose of their existence. (Of course, ‘good’ has a very subjective meaning; so questioning one’s existence could indeed be, for some people, making good use of their time ).

Hamlet

Hamlet, killing time

A more pronounced dilemma in the current time would be something else though. If Hamlet was concerned about the nature of action, the current generation would be more perplexed by the dichotomy of performing the action itself – to act, or not to act; or, going along the familiar line – to do, or not to do. This indecision regarding whether or not to commit oneself into performing an action can arise due to many reasons. Superficially, the reason could be anything; but deep within, the reason is almost always a moral dilemma. Moral dilemmas are cruel – they leave you in a catch-22 situation. The situation is such that, it seems no matter whichever path you choose to take, some thing or the other will be lost.

When it comes to the problem of doing or not doing, the choices are clear: one can either commit oneself into doing, and face whatever calamity ensues (I know, I exaggerated that a bit ), or shun away from all the action and be safe. But is it really safe? You can never be sure if you never take the chance and see. If we introspect it enough, we will know that the doer has a clear advantage on his side in the long run, compared to the non-doer. For instance let’s suppose that you decide to take the chance and become the ‘doer’. If your endeavour succeeds, well and good. If not, you have learned a valuable life lesson. ( Of course this discussion doesn’t endorse the idea of blindly going around doing things as per one’s whims and fancies. Discretion is required where it is due. )

Oprah Winfrey remarked thus:

“I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.”

That’s right – when you don’t even attempt to take a chance, you never know what you’ll end up losing. And that’s not all; the nagging feeling that you had the choice of doing something, but you ended up doing nothing will probably haunt you. Our lives are full of uncertainties. We all are bound to make mistakes. As a result, we all would have our own regrets. However, we are more likely to regret things that we never did in spite of having had a chance to do them. Regrets that start with “I wish I did that….” are indeed more painful to think of, in retrospect.

So, when you are in doubt, just do it. In worst case, you will learn a lesson. After all, we are prudent enough to imbibe life’s lessons and use it for our own betterment, are we not?

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24 thoughts on “The dichotomy of action and inaction

  1. I have thought about this very topic so many times! You have put it in words extremely well. Sometimes I feel like I am a part of some Army regiment, doing the same routine everyday. Everything is already decided, we are just executing. Our society is obsessed with action, not with thought.

    Akhil Kalsh.

    • Exactly. Too many inputs controlling the scripts of our lives – all spontaneity lost; everything is but a mundane mechanical act.
      Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

      -VV

    • Exactly. What good is a narration which follows the routine followed by many others? Why should something like that even be narrated? Good point on the memoir, Shainbird :).

  2. Not doing it is worse. 🙂 I enjoyed reading this, Vaisakh. On a funny note, my husband keeps coming up with stuff like “Tubby, or not tubby. Fat is the question”.

    🙂

  3. That is such a boosting post 🙂 Incidentally I used to be or not to be as a title of my story 😉 not published on blog though…
    Beautiful vaisakh. Enjoyed reading this and we all know what Oprah quoted already but we just keep frgetting 🙂

  4. Often we do hesitate to take a step and move forward as we are afraid of the consequences of our choices. But if we make the right choice then we enjoy the glory and if it’s a bad choice then we learn a lesson. That was such a thoughtful post Vaisakh.

  5. A very apt post and well written. I am trying to break the routine too. The greatest risk in life is indeed not taking any risks at all!

  6. Hamlet’s downfall was his indecision! I believe that calculated risks are always worth taking! After all, as the new generation says – YOLO!! 😀

  7. As they say ‘Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for’.

    A very nice post-thought provoking. Thanks 🙂

    BTW I love the caption for the picture 😀

  8. Pingback: Drink up me hearties, Yo ho! | The Museum Piece
  9. Pingback: 1HundredWorks Featured Author: Vaisakh Venugopal - 1 Hundred Works

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