Commentary: Human beings or human doings?

Megan Cole

“The opposite of being busy isn’t laziness,” WKU alumna Jennie Fowler said, curly brown hair framing her pensive face as she leaned conversationally into the barista bar.

“People work differently and everyone’s life is so different. Our schedules shouldn’t be comparative because they aren’t largely reflective,” Fowler added.

Working full time since she was 17 years old, throughout high school and college, Fowler speaks transparently on the struggles that come with the pressure of finding a healthy balance of being involved and being overbooked.

“We don’t complain because our families said they did the same things, but it’s different now,” Fowler said. “A job and good grades aren’t enough anymore and we have to fight hard and work harder.”

We have seemingly renamed ourselves from “human beings” to “human doings.”

In westernized civilization, we feel purposeful when our agendas are bursting at the seams. We are competing to see who can hold the most leadership positions, make the most money after graduation, write the best thesis, take the most hours, attend the most social events, be seen, be heard and be the best do-er to ever do.

“Our priorities are just in the wrong place. I mean, there’s obviously a healthy amount of being active in things,” sophomore Marlee Barrett said. Barrett is involved in three campus organizations, holding leadership roles in all, maintains a full class schedule and works two different jobs. She said it’s often hard to find down time, and when she does, it doesn’t seem right.

“Those commitments teach you about working hard and being responsible, but as soon as you have down time our culture tells you you’re doing something wrong and you begin to compare your schedule to everyone else’s to see if you’re adding up,” Barrett said.

C.S. Lewis put it like this, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private.”

We are all at a place of five hours of sleep, three classes, two meetings, shallow conversations, four cups of coffee in one day and later, coming to the realization we aren’t made for this.

Marc Hirsch, a retired doctor and mentor of medical students, said he worked in intensive care units for over 40 years while moving all over the United States and maintaining a family. Looking down for a moment confidently at the cup of coffee in his hands, the 71-year-old, now Bowling Green local, laughed.

“After being a doctor for years, I couldn’t even afford to be honest,” Hirsch said. “If I had to give any advice to your generation, it would be to live modestly, find God, and don’t be bought. Learn how to be; I taught so many of my students the concept of being.” You can get lost in the doing, he said, adding that although it isn’t bad or wrong to be involved, you still need to take care of yourself.

We’re missing the point of realizing that it takes room for things to happen and for us to grow. In his book titled “The Rest of God,” Mark Buchanan wrote “most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”

Being busy doesn’t give us purpose; it often sneaks in and robs us of joy. In the midst of busyness, we might lose sight of what matters to us, what we’re passionate about, and what we value.

You are so much more than a tight schedule.

If we’re looking at ourselves honestly, and I hope that we are, it’s safe to say that we ought to take the time to relearn what it means to be a human being.

Reporter Megan Cole can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].