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Passive vs. Active Philosophy

·3 mins

Speaking broadly, there are two ways to think about life: passively or actively. Passive philosophy amounts to letting things happen, whereas active is about making things happen.

I generally try to stay active. If I want something to happen, I need to make it happen. Sitting around waiting for something to happen or for someone to come along and tell you what to do is passive.

You can find plenty of examples of this in life, and you may also notice that people who achieve their vision of success tend to be active. The belief that the world owes you something and you shouldn’t have to take an active role in making things happen harms you and you alone. Actively working to pursue your goals is the only sensible way to get through life.

Some people can get far in life passively, and–anecdotally speaking–they tend to be people with relatively strong support networks. It could be that their parents are very involved in their lives, or they have some other strong influences, such as a spouse, close friend, or partner. These people would be remarkably successful if they just took a more active role in their lives (provided they wanted to).

I’ve contributed to many open-source software projects over the years and have created a number myself. I’ve been asked by people before how they can “get into open-source”, and to me, this question is absurd: the only thing holding you back is you. The cool thing about software is that it’s soft, and the only limit to what you can do is your time and energy. There are no open-source police out there; you can publish as much or as little code as you want. There are infinite resources on the Internet and elsewhere to learn about writing software.

It can be easy to fall into the passive trap. It’s easy to be passive; being active is hard. Being active is scary; it means that if you fail, you can only blame yourself. You become fully responsible for your actions, and you have to bail yourself out when things go wrong.

To me it has felt for a long time like there’s been an uptick in the general infantilization of everything, but it may just be that I’m growing older. You see this often in the various media we’re exposed to, especially advertising, and the way politicians and anyone in positions of power speak down to people like they’re idiots. A lot of the modern-day political backlash seems to be a response to this kind of infantilization and condescending patronizing.

Passivity is choosing to be infantilized, or in other words, it’s choosing to let someone else make your decisions. Being active is harder, but the result will always be better.