In addition to the little Memo notebook I carry in my front pocket—and have for some 35 years—I now have a document sitting in the middle of my computer desktop that says “To Do.” Using my sophisticated skills, I make my list of items and then
cross-out the things I’ve done. Move those to the bottom of the list and raise others to the top.
Now I’m thinking I need another document titled “To Be.” Reminders like:
1) Sit with my back against a tree and just watch the world.
2) Wander aimlessly in a new neighborhood. Don’t bring the phone.
3) Sit an extra period of meditation.
4) As always, play piano.
5) Write a poem without expecting to.
I always think that the purpose of the “to do” list is to cross off the things that must be done so I can finally have time to “be.” But there is no end to that list and one can easily get addicted to putting items on and crossing them off and forgetting entirely that there’s more to good living than answering e-mails, arranging flights, filling out forms and generally kowtowing to the world’s constant demands. A life well-lived puts doing and being in constant conversation with each other.
I believe this was best expressed by graffiti I often saw in the Antioch College bathrooms:
“To be is to do.” —Plato
“To do is to be.” —Sartre
“Do-be-do-be-do.” —Frank Sinatra