Re: Not-doing LO1061

David E. Birren, MB/5, 608.267.2442 (
Thu, 4 May 1995 10:13 CST

Replying to Myrna Casebolt (LO1016) --

>Are we not "doing" by the perception of "not-doing"? The thought that we
>are not doing something is, in essance, doing something... Not long
>as we consciously not perceived as a kind of control, isn't it? It
>is doing not doing.

Once again, Myrna, you've made me rethink something that I thought was
clear to me. Dick Althouse said something similar about not-doing as a
form of doing. I'm in the beginning of rethinking this, so I'll bounce an
idea or two around and see where it leads. Maybe it's useful to see
not-doing as an idealized state, a model, if you will. Let me tell a
little story.

A woman became angry at her former spouse and told tales to his family and
friends that made him look like the culprit in the problems they
experienced in their relationship. He had a choice - to talk to these
people in order to preserve his reputation, or to let the long run take
its course wherever that would lead. He would certainly be justified in
trying to "salvage" the situation. But instead, he decides to do nothing
and let people make their own judgments. I'd call this an instance of

Perhaps we can never really do nothing, as Dick suggests. But we can
understand the concept of not-doing as a reminder that taking a proactive
stance is essentially a way of imposing the individual's desires on the
system. Much better, perhaps, to get in tune with the system, and this
requires a certain passivity, or not-doing.

Your thoughts?


David E. Birren Phone: (608)267-2442
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources Fax: (608)267-3579
Bureau of Management & Budget Internet:
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"To know, and not to act, is to not know."
--Wang Yang Ming, 9th-century Chinese general