Being vs. Doing

Jonathan Clements

WE’RE SPENDING the final two weeks before Labor Day on Cape Cod, staying with my in-laws. Everywhere we turn, there’s another delightful home with a wonderful water view. “Wouldn’t it be great to live there?” my wife and I muse, as we imagine how much happier we’d be if we lived in this place of apparently permanent vacation.

We are, of course, completely delusional.

Being in a beautiful spot can be a great joy for a week or two. Soon enough, vacationers are contemplating purchasing a second home or a time share. We’re fixated on a vision of enchanted daily life, forgetting that the humdrum of existence—mowing the lawn, buying the groceries, going to the dentist—will quickly intrude, no matter how spectacular the view.

Even when we’re at home, we devote great energy to creating special places—a remodeled kitchen, a new deck, lush landscaping with a bench where we can sit and contemplate our transformed garden.

Yet the bench almost never gets sat on, because simply being isn’t enough. Instead, what brings us great joy is doing. The real pleasure in the new garden is the planning and planting. Once it’s done, our sense of satisfaction quickly passes, and we’re on to another project.

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