I did some one-on-one calls on Sunday for Intentional Society, getting more familiar with folks and quizzing them about their hopes for personal/ultimate outcomes and inclinations for next steps. One thing that came up multiple times was a desire towards action.
Action as the counterpoint to the "all talk" experience of the sensemaking scene of Stoa sessions (many are great, don't get me wrong) and all of the podcasting and youtubing airtime spent in this space. Action as a feedback mechanism from the real world. Action as pragmatism versus ivory tower, as grounding against wireheading.
This stirs up a few complicated feels for me - which is why I'm journaling about it. Now, I didn't hear this as coming from a "let's go save the world" savior complex. I didn't hear it as "our personal growth doesn't matter, only what we accomplish externally" either. One could have "achiever mindset" towards both personal growth and societal impact, and yet this wasn't ringing any alarm bells for me either. All those things are traps I'm looking out for, and yet I haven't found the energy source here yet.
Doing versus being? The polarity management, yeah that feels alive here. I used to... and well I think the common default is, to see everything - including growing my own skills and experience - as flowing towards impact, service, making a difference in the world. (Notice how "the world" didn't quite include myself there.) I think that was true in both socialized (people will love me and approve of me) and self-authored (these are my values) frames, and that assumption only broke in the last few years for me. The reason it broke was pretty practical - it stopped "working" for me, in the sense that that attachment started (or was) effectively blocking itself.
It was that "Chinese finger trap" scenario: pushing harder only backfired harder. The key to moving more effectively was to back off of that struggle and genuinely accept what is. There's an integration of being and doing that still feels like "start with (or swing to) being" to me currently as I swing back away from doing-land. So I'm attracted to relational practices, of focusing on the hows of being-ness, and genuinely so, for their own sake! Not just as a way to "unblock the doing"... it's more like "bringing balance to the force."
Being-and-doing integrated together looks (AFAIK) like a flowy grounded judo sorcery. The magic of the one-inch punch. The Marcus Aurelius quote,
"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."
This comes from a real acceptance and okay-ness, not e.g. meditating as a life hack for getting more self-discipline. That true acceptance is what frees up fluid motion.
It's not about "just be", and it's not "let's just do" either. Does hearing a desire for action sound unbalanced to me? Hmm. Ah, maybe it's that some of this very much looks like "talk" in the "talk vs action" contrast. Heck at the surface that's all Circling or Collective Presencing is, talk, whether via video calls or in person.
But of course in another sense every bit of being is doing. Every thought, every speech act is an action. The impact of words is just as great as sticks and stones. I suppose there's a salient "action boundary" of the self - generally people don't think of thoughts as actions.
Hmm, and there's another boundary for a group, at the external membrane/border. Is a group "acting" if its activities are entirely internal to itself? Some cases/contexts might sorta say no, though that doesn't feel nearly as solid as the boundary of self.
One last thought: Actions have impacts, which can be observed or measured in some way. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no possible observation of any change, then who cares whether it did or didn't really fall. I would say that actions of any scale have this property, even intra-personal shifts. But the "do we care" of the outcomes may be vital to whether those results are meaningful to us. Yes, beware Goodhart's Law, but measuring some sort of value may be more interesting than how action-y something feels. Input is not output is not outcome.
So to come back to these mini-interviews the other day... Do I resonate fully with a desire towards action? Yes! Do I fear missing something crucial about being-ness and non-doing? Also yes! Will this tension be one that arises and has to be managed (as a polarity, not as a conflict)? Pretty certainly yes! Will this be messy? Yes, even if it were just me myself and I, and even more so in relationship! Will the meta-tension of how much messiness/tension is useful be a salient tension? Maybe!
I don't know these particular people well enough yet to know what is meant or felt when someone says "action" - and my, what depths these simple words have! I'm feeling the size of the challenge, of building up shared vocabulary, shared models, shared understanding, all of that on the way to sharing a group coherence of the sort where the "mind-meld" of the collective intelligence comes alive.
There's something about "wisdom" lurking here, right next to "embodiment" and trust and unconscious/intuitive mode processing. <yawn> Tired, going to bed.