Human Being v. Human Doing

Last week, in an art course I am taking, we had a guest lesson from a gentleman who calls himself Yoshi. He is a Japanese calligrapher. He had a thick accent and his lesson was full of brilliant gems of asian philosophy that, as they always seem to do, found their way into relevance within the process at hand, in this case, of doing calligraphy.

During this lesson, Yoshi made a distinction about how humans used to live their lives and how they currently do so. He said that when calligraphy was at its peak of popularity and influence, people were human beings, whereas, people are currently people doings. It is a distinction between process and action that I found uniquely poignant. He commented quite facetiously on the obsession with technology, i.e. texting, the internet, among other things. Rather than “being” in the moment, they are “doing” something, texting or checking facebook.

On the surface it may appear a linguistic distinction, but it is much more. It is a commentary on how society has progressed, even internationally. I know that I am guilty, quite often, of being merely a human doing, rather than a human being. However, I do feel myself pulling away towards human being more and more of late. I go through phases where I will fall into deep meditative periods on life and such. In these periods of my life, I find myself being my most human being.

Why is it that we no longer focus on the present? Why is it that we no longer focus on a sort of discipline within process. Breathing is key in almost every part of our lives and is so within a great deal of every day activities in asian cultures. Why? It is because they have identified its importance. They have keyed in on the integral role breathing, patience, and diligence plays in our lives. If you can’t focus, localize your breathing, and paint a stroke on a still paper, what might that say about your ability to perform in the workplace when a task requires great precision and a deliberative approach?

What are you, a human being or a human doing?

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