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The Choice of Nothing -- How Not Doing Anything Is Also a Valuable Choice

Updated: Mar 10

A man in a coffee shop.

Ironically, nothingness has more layers than one may initially think. It's a great paradox that nothing is something, because you need nothing in order to create something within it, therefore "nothingness" can be given significance like any other "something".

One way this paradox is expressed is when nothing is a choice—the choice of not doing anything; a choice of passivity. of idleness. It's choice that might surprise you in its potential significance and impact, whoever you may be and whatever power you possess.

The choice of not doing anything can be as important as the choice of doing otherwise, of "not-nothing." You could have been a killer, a r***st, a thief, and so forth. Each day brings a new set of potentials you can choose from. When you choose something over a lot of other choices, like the choices I just presented, you do much in your life without, presumably, even realizing it.

You might not even be aware of what you're truly capable of, so by your own ignorance of self, you might choose to be idle with your power for you are unaware of its true extent.

That is because, when you choose not to, many things and beings' paths in their existence are shifted into different directions, all because you did not choose to do something that might affect them in a significant way. Have you chosen not to be an expert thief? Congratulations, you saved the bank accounts of many, simply by choosing not to be an expert thief. Do you refuse to force yourself on people under any circumstances? That's good, obviously, because the lives of many have been left untraumatized, when they could have been otherwise, by your very own ability to choose at any given moment.

Therefore, the choice to not do cerain things has an immense moral value. And if to quote Sun Tzu: "The wise warrior avoids the battle". One of the reasons why I personally am not a very social person is because I already predict the suffering that can ensue in human communication. So, to avoid inflicting much suffering on others, and to avoid suffering unecessarily myself, I avoid many interactions.

And choosing to do nothing can be seen as a choice of avoidance as well. I see no fault in avoiding making decisions that could lead to agony. It is the moral thing to reduce human suffering. Human suffering can be reduced by not increasing it in the first place.

To quote Sun Tzu again: "The greatest victory is that which requires no battle". It is best to get what you're looking for with minimal or no suffering on either yourself or others. It is best because it is the moral thing to do, to make both yourself and others suffer as little as possible. And for morality to ensue optimally, one needs to be aware of the power of his or her choices. As you can see, the choice of nothing can be quite powerful.

We should not argue with each other so much, for example, when we can get the knowledge we're looking for by avoiding this confrontation. Remember: You have the internet, the biggest source of information created by mankind. As long as you can use it, there is no need to really argue with others just to get knowledge. For your and others' health, try to pick the path of least resistance.

People who are more foolish thnan others, who work on impulses and would still desire to argue, are "shooting themselves in the foot" by not doing their research, when they can do just that. After all, there is far less suffering, if at all, in learning, than there is, in arguing.

And since it is so important for many human beings to argue, I am at large, an asocial being.

Thus, nothing is a more significant choice than one may initially admit it is. That is because the consequences of our actions can vary in accordance to different choices, and should we choose a certain set of choices each time, the results might remain the same.

However, other possibilities are erased from existence at that time. By choosing to do something at an exact moment, you also choose not to do something else within said moment. This leads to the power of choice that you did not make, AKA nothing, which is inevitable in this case. In other words, when you make a single choice, you also do not make plenty of other choices.

The best choices you make are those that lead to your desired results, while considering the choices others already did for you. After all we do not live in a vacuum, and if to quote American philosopher John Duran: "My impossible life was not from the choices I've made, but from the choices forced upon me, and I dealt with them the best I could".

The choice of dealing with the choices others made for you, that are more powerful than yourself, is also a choice some may not make. One could oppose these choices instead of coping with the fact that they have been made. However by coping with them, when you know that you do not have the power to alter them, reveals the powerful aspect of choosing nothing. When you have the intelligence to know you currently lack the power to oppose undesired choices made for you, you save yourself unnecessary suffering. Acceptance is also a choice; a choice of nothing.

Obviously, people have different sets of potentials, depending not only on their individual merits, but also on the practical power they have over people, and, for some over the world. What makes Hitler such a bad person, is that he did too much for his own sake, thus leading not only to his own demise but to the demise of Germany along with the many who have died because of the actions he made. Had he not do much when he came to power, the lives of countles millions would've been spared.

If he had been far less ambitious, i.e., if he had done more nothing than something, the world would be shaped differently today, with far more people being alive, like the descendants of the ones he executed. Remember the killer example? From here comes the importance of choosing nothing over something: The practical, wise part that can save your plans from being exploded in your face. The mastermind knows this well.

In the name of moraltiy, it is sometimes best to be an insignificant authority figure, than be a very significant authority figure for the wrong reasons. Walter White from "Breaking Bad" accumulated much power because he knew what he was capable of, so he worked towards it. However, with one's knowledge over the many possible outcomes, it is sometimes the best decision to not seize the potential one has.

He could've just drunk away his problems, for instance, instead of becoming a drug baron. By refusing to build a criminal enterprise, he could've saved much suffering in the world, as well as the lives of the other characters in the show.

This brings us to an important question: when should we do nothing? Can doing nothing bring us closer to our goals, at times? Is it better, at times, to not do nothing rather than mistakes, despite the fact that mistakes are great learning opportunities?

I can answer these questions with an example: It is often believed in the world of content creation that the gaps between sharing are imperative to both your followers and to any audience that is exposed to your content. Share too much at a small time, and people will be overwhelmed. On the contrary, share too little in a long time, and people will begin to lose interest. The difference between the two completely relies on how "nothing" you "do," aka how much you avoid publishing content.

Because of that, one can say that we technically "do nothing" on a regular basis, as by every deed there are countless other deeds that could have been done, but were not. Remember that you are more influential than you think—we all are. All thanks to the choice of nothing. The more you do nothing, the less evil you might become, and the less evil you are, the more, technically, good you will stay. Doing nothing is its own good.

"We can all technically do good by refusing to do maliciousness. It is a deed that is also a misdeed, but a conscious choice nonetheless, because if we can just stay and think more of the consequences of our actions, on whether others, ourselves or both, we can contribute to goodness through avoiding things we would’ve otherwise considered to do.

Should you take that bribe? Should you sleep with a married person? Should you kill someone to feel what it’s like? Avoid those and you will passively do good in the world."

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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