in Life Optimization

Be and Do, There is No Or

Previously, I’ve played around with the idea of the fundamental duality of subjective/objective, that one must balance in order to live well. There’s the Now and Future, and Art and Science, but those are too abstract to he helpful beyond a framework in which to think about the world. If information isn’t actionable, it’s entertainment, so here’s me making things more actionable.

There’s only two verbs you need to remember in order to live well: Be and Do.


To Be something is effortless. It is merely to exist. One does not have to think in order to exist – it happens on its own. You are conscious, you think, therefore you are. Existence is effortless because it just happens. You may have to eat and sleep in order to continue existing, but right now, in the moment, you don’t have to Do anything.

However, the act of existing gives you a perspective, and a perspective makes things subjective. Whether something exists from the outside is objective, but from the inside, it’s all colored with genetics and life experiences, which is subjective. No two people act exactly the same in the same situation, but the fact that a person is there is the same. Whether they are there is beyond discussion, but what they would do is not.


Doing something requires action. Action requires effort and thought. But they are easier to impart across perspectives. How you and I would split wood, write books, or sit up would be slightly different, but we would still be splitting wood, writing books, and sitting up. The action is a thing that exists on its own, untainted by being. There’s no perspective involved in an action, wheres existing entails all sorts of subjective positions. They’re opposites – actions and existence, at least in terms of subjective and objective.

Doing require time and effort, while Being requires neither. I cannot command you to Be – you already do. Yet if I command you to Do something, you must muster the ability to do so, even if it is a task at which you are so talented it barely requires thought. In that case you would experience flow, a state where time does not seem to exist, and I daresay you would be doing a stellar job of balancing Being and Doing, thinking and acting, willing and letting go.

Here is where Be and Do overlaps with Now and Future, and Art and Science. What exists now does not require any action on your part – it is what it is. What could exist in the future does not depend on you, but to make the future you visualize in your head, the future of intention, you must do things. Where do artists say their work comes? From the inside, they are giving life to the emotions and feeling and fundamental aspects of the human condition that come from their subjective experience. Meanwhile, scientists are uncovering galactic truths and laws that exist outside of them, outside of humans, whether or not we pay them heed. An artist or a scientist may be in Flow, but they come at it from different directions.


This is where the categorical imperative of ‘Be and Do’ comes from the fundamental duality of subjective and objective. There is no ‘or’, only ‘and’. Someone who does not Be and Do will die unfulfilled. One must come to terms with what is, while deciding what part of the world that could be they want to create. One must be passive with many things, but active and intentional with the few that matter to them. One must accept their Being, but decide their Doings. One must be happy now, and in the future. Be someone. Do something.

Neither extreme will satisfy. The Doer always works, always does things, is always working towards what could be and is not satisfied with what is. When an action is completed they move on to another, they have to Do something! They will never be content. Meanwhile, the person who is content with what is, easily placated, has accepting their Being. Existence is enough for them. They seek only to maximize their local happiness, with good food, drink, and sex. Epicureans, we call them, or bon vivant. They live well in their own subjective reality, and nobody else cares, because they never Did anything special.

My New Agey friends tell me that I am subscribing to a false dichotomy – that there is only one, and to separate the two is folly. Better to curate a personality for yourself that allows you to passively Be someone who Does things without thinking, as part of their nature. That would be the best of both worlds – you would Be yourself, never exerting effort and yet Doing things again and again. So maybe the hippies are on to something there

Balance the two. Be AND Do, not or.