Nothing need be done.
I need to do the laundry. I need to go to work. I need to finish this project.
I need to do this, I need to do that...
I always feel like I need to do so, so much.
A few years ago, I came across an idea that changed my perspective a bit. It was sparked by this line from the poet, environmentalist, and Buddhist scholar Gary Snyder (who by the way is a fascinating person, read more about his life and work here). Gary wrote:
"Knowing that nothing need be done is where we begin to move from."
I remember so clearly when I first read this quote.
It was a couple of years back at a small cheese shop in Blue Hill, Maine. I was in search of a soft and stinky local cheese (as I so often am).
The shop had some prints from a local letterpress printer and while flipping through, I saw the quote.
Immediately I was struck by it.
At first my reaction was, “What?! That’s interesting. But what does it even mean?”
Repeating the idea back slowly to myself… “Knowing that we don’t need to do anything is where we can begin?”
The way Gary starts with the word “knowing” caught me off-guard. As if the idea that “nothing need be done” is a universal truth.
Then it hit me — holy shit. It is a universal truth.
We don't need to do anything.
Sure, we need water to live. But we only need water in so much as we want to live. Life is the choice we are making here.
I only need to do laundry because I choose to wear clean clothes.
It’s a subtle and in a way semantic difference. But it has changed my perspective on so many things.
Realizing that all the things I “need” to do are choices I have made — it is an idea I find infinitely liberating.
And realizing that I in fact can be intentional about the decisions I make is exactly where I begin to move forward from.
P.S. Surfacing ideas that have the power to positively change perspectives is a big part of our work at Holstee. Dive into our archive of work with a Holstee Membership →