When confronted with COVID-19, with George Floyd’s murder, with 400 years of racism stitched into our history, many seem to be asking: “What can I do?” and “Am I doing enough?” These questions are the subtext to many of our conversations, they have the potential to shape our guilt and reveal our privilege, and they have me thinking about how our culture defines what doing is and is not.
There’s this consensus that doing is an action. It’s movement, it’s the opposite of non-doing, it’s something relevant and provable when asked “What are you doing about it?” We order books, we issue statements, we create groups, we develop plans, we join webinars. But perhaps we are defining doing too narrowly. Maybe we need to expand our definition of acceptable doing to include some non-doing, some being, some slowing, some pausing, some sitting confused on the couch as we sip tea and ponder the questions we’re afraid to ponder.
In the Jewish tradition, after someone dies, people mourn for seven days by “observing a shiva” where there is more grieving than planning, more sitting than acting, more remembering than Instagramming.
Maybe our obsession with doing is more for us than it is for the cause itself. Maybe it’s a way to avoid our grieving, our confusion, or the need for the slow, nonlinear work to explore, as my friend and coach Jerry Colonna invites us to ask, how are we complicit in the things we say we don’t like?