Friday, 26 October 2012

To be or to do

This entry is not intended ot be a thesis, or indeed wildly meaningful to anyone but me. I've been thinking a lot recently about John Boyd and his (in)famous call for us to choose between being someone, and doing something.

From Robert Coram's biography of Boyd, sourced via DNIPOGO.

“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” [Boyd] said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.” He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?"
As with so much of Boyd, if you strip out references to the airforce and replace it with more generic language it's relevance widens to encompass all of us

The language demands on us, to make hard choices and to externalise the impact we have on the world around us. It isn't good enough to look at what will suit us best, and make our progress through life easy, it's more critical to look at the community we find ourselves in, to identify the problems and without selfishness fix them. Not seek to fix them, but to fix them. It's an utterly uncompromising path, suitable for someone who made few compromises in his life.

It shouldn't be good enough to simply allow a situation to stand which is unacceptable. It diminishes us as individuals and communities to stand by and accept the way things are, rather than the way they should be.

To be or to do.

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