Why Passivity Breeds Mediocrity and Mental Illness

Too much inactivity, rather than promoting mental health, tends to breed unhappiness and a plethora of psychological problems.

Most people spend their time passively consuming.

“Most people are, in the most ordinary sense, very limited. They pass their time, day after day, in idle, passive pursuits, just looking at things – at games, television, whatever. Or they fill the hours talking, mostly about nothing of significance – of comings and goings, of who is doing what, of the weather, of things forgotten almost as soon as they are mentioned. They have no aspirations for themselves beyond getting through another day doing more or less what they did yesterday. They walk across the stage of life, leaving everything about as it was when they entered, achieving nothing, aspiring to nothing, having never a profound or even original thought…This is what is common, usual, typical, indeed normal. Relatively few rise above such a plodding existence.” (Richard Taylor, Restoring Pride)

According to Colin Wilson, too much inactivity, rather than promoting mental health, tends to breed unhappiness and a plethora of psychological problems.

“When he did not occupy his days with interesting tasks, challenges, and problems to solve, he discovered that depressive moods would soon wash over him, fog his perceptions, and cause him to become a pessimist of the human condition.”

Even though Wilson’s situation is not applicable to all, the struggle to cultivate an uncommon virtue or skill, produce work of exceptional worth, do something truly original and do it well is always worth the effort.

“Some people, no doubt, are born, and destined, to be common, to live out their lives to no significant purpose, but that is relatively rare…Most people have the power to be creative, and some have it in a god-like degree…But many people – perhaps even most – are content with the passing pleasures and satisfactions of the animal side of our nature. Indeed, many people will account their lives to be successful if they get through them with only minimal pain, with pleasant divergence from moment to moment and day-to-day, and the general approval of those around them. And this, notwithstanding that they often have within them the ability to do something which perhaps no other human being has ever done. Merely to do what others have done is often safe, and comfortable; but to do something truly original, and do it well, whether it is appreciated by others or not – that is what being human is really all about, and it is alone what justifies the self-love that is pride.” (Richard Taylor, Restoring Pride)


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