LIFE IS ACTION, NOT CONTEMPLATION
This famous quotation from the German poet and philosopher Goethe contains a valuable idea. Life is not just a reverie, a dream. It is much more than that. It is action. Without energetic action, life would stagnate. Without great deeds life would become static and lose much of its charm. A life of thought and reflection would be quite futile if thought never transforms into practical action.
This does not, however, mean that contemplation has no place in life. Contemplation has no place in life. Contemplation induces peace of mind, tranquility and complacence. Practically all the great ideals of the world have come from thinkers and philosophers with whom contemplation was a habit. Without mature reflection and cool deliberation nothing could be done. Meditation and silent prayers are purifying agents for the soul and a sedative for the nerves. But contemplation should never be regarded as the aim of human life. If great ideas offered to the world by philosophers had not been translated into action practical men, they would have been lost. If the teaching of thinkers like Rousseau and Voltaire had not been given a concrete shape, there would have been no revolution and no political progress in France.
The march of civilization has largely depended upon me of action, men for whom adventure was breathe of life, men in whom the desire to do brave deeds was supreme. How much does the world owe to its great explorers, navigators and mountain-climbers that faced the wrath of nature and fury of the elements in order to satisfy their inner urge for action?
Think of the large number of men who have in one way or other contributed to the progress and prosperity of mankind or who have been responsible for the realization of the great ideals of the world- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Pasteur, John Brown, Florence Nightingale, Lenin- all these were those persons who capacity to translate ideas into action was exceptional. It is indeed, interesting to imagine what would have happened if all these and similar men and women of action passed their lives in contemplation. Would not human life have still been primitive? The attitude of mid expressed by Tennyson is certainly not being envied or encouraged. Life would come to a standstill if we were all to spend our existence in dreamful ease. We should, therefore, say with Ulysses that “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” is the sum of life. We ought not “to pause, to make an end, to rust unfurnished”. As Carlyle says “work while it is called today, for the night comes where in no man can work”. Merely to brood and muse of over life would be a poor way of spending time. If we were all to act upon Stevenson’s advice and turn idlers life would become exceedingly dull. There is a keen pleasure in achievement and a great joy in creation compared with which the satisfaction born of mere contemplation is nothing.
Besides, the desire for action is something irrepressible expects in morbid, lazy people. Nature has endowed us with inexhaustible reserves of energy and we must utilize them in action. War itself which is so destructive may be looked upon as a necessity since it serves as an outlet for super-abundant energy that accumulates in human beings. In short, it is not desirable to retire into jungles, like Indian saints or go to monasteries like medieval Christian monks and spend life in meditation. Even the examples of Christ, Lord Buddha and Lord Krishna says that “action is the essence of life”. These prophets moved about among men and made great efforts to teach mankind the ideal way of life.