Don’t worry: despite the title, this is not going to be a post of me complaining about something, or at least that’s not how I would construe it (but then I wouldn’t, would I?). Instead, I would like to begin with an observation, that observation being that humans are fundamentally lazy. Or, for those who prefer a positive spin to things (so many possible particle physics jokes there), humans are fundamentally efficient. Like nature, we are generally inclined to take the short term path of least resistance.
This is perfectly natural, since evolution does not tend to reward the hard worker. When not dealing with the necessities of life, most animals will simply rest, not go out and practice their predator escapes, as you’ve most likely seen if you’ve ever been to a zoo. For most of the animals, if they weren’t being fed, they were probably just lolling about, not doing anything very exciting. This is no symptom of them being in a zoo, but rather very natural behavior. After all, running away from predators, chasing food, and propagating the species are all activities that require significant energy, and in unpredictable circumstances it is usually perceived as best to conserve energy for the circumstances that really require it. Like escaping death.
As we so often do, humans turn things on their heads, and laziness/efficiency is no longer the evolutionarily advantageous maneuver that it once was. Despite that, most people are still inclined to take the short term path of least resistance (which can often lead to long term complications that could have been avoided if other actions had been taken in the short term). While I sometimes find this to be inefficient, it only really bothers me when it comes to complaining time. Not time for me to complain – time for other people to complain. We all live in an imperfect world, and we all would like to improve our circumstances, and so complaining is natural. It is a way of identifying problems. Yet that’s almost always where it stops.
Complaining is easy. Problems are all around us, and there’s little cost, even some benefits, to ranting away on what ails us. However, I find this kind of complaining quite frustrating, and I try very hard to avoid doing it myself, because it’s not productive. Sure, we could sit down all day and complain about, say, the government, but have we really accomplished anything? No. Complaining is of almost no use if not associated with action. My parents instilled this maxim: “if you’re going to complain about something, you have to be willing to do something about it.” That’s probably why I find idle complaining so frustrating.
I think it’s a good maxim by which to live. Going about my life, and reflecting upon it, I will ask myself every time I begin to complain if I am willing to actually do something about the problem I’ve identified. If I’m going to complain about governmental policy, then am I willing to draft a new policy proposal and advocate for it, or run for political office? If I’m going to complain about the amount of traffic IGC Publishing is getting, am I willing to take deliberate steps to improve that traffic? If I’m going to complain about being complaining and not doing anything about it, am I willing to live my own life by that philosophy and help to instill it in others?
When it comes time to compose the great pithy sayings of philosophy, I don’t know that “if you’re going to complain about something, you have to be willing to do something about it” will make the cut. That’s alright, because it’s not meant to explain the meaning of life or how we’re supposed to address all situations. It’s just a suggestion for how we might all become a little less upset and a little more effective in our lives. It might even help make a difference for someone.