The Virtue of Deep Observation

There’s so much analysis and activism in my social media feeds right now. Yet I’m finding my response is one of reflection, trying to make sense of what now is rather than trying to change it.

My first reaction is of guilt or shame - am I‌ surrendering? Giving up on trying to change things because it’s hopeless or too great? Or is this resignation? Giving in. Or is it self care?‌ The scale and enormity of the challenges feel overwhelming and the only way to manage the tidal wave of change is to insulate, isolate and withdraw.

Perhaps there are elements of all of the above, but I think it is more a sense of acceptance. A realistic appraisal of the scale of the situation and of my agency - and an acceptance of what is highly likely.

It is also a reflection of a very crowded action space. There are tech entrepreneurs sprinting to code their way out of this; NGOs bandwagonning and trying to use COVID19 as a signal booster; companies crowing about their altruism; community groups self-organising in measures of solidarity. I’d like to think that it all comes from a good place and intent, regardless of the varying quality and impact.

I feel like I’m standing in a crowded room where everyone is shouting over each other. It’s exhausting and frustrating - there’s a huge sense of wasted energy and effort. Inefficient - and anyone who knows me knows that I‌ hate inefficiency - or in some places, counter-productive. We live in a culture which prizes action over reflection, advocacy over observation. This dynamic drives two responses in me - firstly one of competition and self-doubt, where I‌ want to take part, be better than the rest. Secondly, the desire to swim against the current - to stand still in the commotion.

This makes me think of the Te of Piglet and what I’m beginning to think of as the virtue of inaction - no, that’s not right, acceptance is action - in many ways, the hardest action to take. No, this is more like the virtue of deep observation. That’s not to say that those taking action haven’t reflected or observed (indeed the flipside of this is the frustration and anger that I’m feeling at the inaction of the government in the face of clear information…) - but I can’t help but feel that a little more observation and patient reflection would be better in the long term - a little less haste, a little more speed.