and Community -
Being and Doing
involves participation and contribution to the community. There is a tendency to equate contribution with doing, as
opposed to being, and to further equate doing with a specific form
of action, that of producing a good or performing a service.
In other words, contribution is equated with the production
of economic value, with the result that persons whose presence or
activity, for whatever reason, does not result in measurable
economic output are not considered as active contributing members of
the community. I
believe this perception is wrong.
It turns away from active citizenship an increasing number of
people whose talents, energies and participation are important to us
this narrow view of contribution is influenced by a faulty
association of doing with action and of being with passivity.
A contrasting vision can be found in Jacques Dufresne's entry
for the concept ACTION in the Encyclop‚die de l'Agora [note].
Dufresne does not oppose being and doing but, drawing on the
Aristotelian categories of action and quoting from philosopher
Maurice Blondel, shows that most actions involve a transformation of
the self, a becoming, so that being and doing are in fact intimately
tied together. When they are bound, both are active; separated, both
are passive. It is one of the tragedies of our times that we hold
doing to be about production, and leave aside the becoming that can
infuse our actions with the depth of meaning we seek in our lives.
says Dufresne, involves an act of the will, a choice, an alignment
of soul and body for a purpose and it should be distinguished from
automatic or unthinking behavior which can be said to be passive. We
recognize this intuitively in the greater admiration we have for
people whose achievements are less what they have made or done than
what they have become as a result of their activity : what they have
made of themselves.
and becoming correspond to the first two levels of action described
by Aristotle : poiein and prattein.
Poiein is the creative act of producing. Prattein is the
becoming, the transformation of self through action, that is
present, in varying degree, in all forms of poiein. It leads to a
third level, theorein, also called contemplation, which is the exact
reverse of passive behavior. Passive behavior is all doing and no
being; theorein is almost all being : a state of concentrated
presence and attention, with little or no apparent movement.
Doing, thinks Aristotle, only has meaning when poiein
involves a concern for prattein, and when it is nurtured and
illuminated by theorein.
society is only concerned with the material and mechanical aspects
of doing as measured by the usefulness of the output.
Becoming and contemplation are divorced from serious work and
relegated to times of leisure.
But leisure is most often spent in the agitated passivity of
spectator activity, with little effective difference between travel
tour sightseeing and watching the same landscapes and monuments on
television. The fact is
that while poiein has no meaning without prattein and theorein, the
latter are not possible without poiein.
This is why leisure and rest are no remedy to the fatigue and
the lack of meaning of our working lives.
Energy and regeneration, Blondel says, only come with the
exertion of purposeful action.
important and perhaps most neglected today is the illuminating power
of theorein. Through
the power of photosynthesis, plants transform the energy of the sun
into nourishment for all forms of life.
We could say that there is a form of spiritual photosynthesis
that enables great thinkers and artists who are attuned to sources
of spiritual energy to fill their works with the meaning we need for
spiritual nourishment, the meaning that can help us bring together
our being and our doing and thereby facilitate our participation and
contribution to community.
Email Dominique: email@example.com
here to access the original Agora Encyclopedia entry
to Contribution & Community