Give more than you receive. We’ve all heard this bit of wisdom countless times in our life, and even perhaps acknowledged its value as an ideal, but how often do we truly put it in practice? Unfortunately, this phrase is often relegated to a long list of similar expressions whose primary purpose is to be mindlessly and often hypocritically repeated from person to person in a shadow of their true value. “Follow your dreams, anything is possible, laugh every day, love thy neighbor, love your enemies, treat others like you wish to be treated, think before you speak, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” If this wisdom was lived at the same frequency it was said the world could be a more compassionate, empathetic, lighthearted place full of passion and possibilities. Yet we find ourselves not enriched by their value but beaten into indifference by empty platitudes. The problem is one of translation – these principles are so excessively broad that we have no idea how to actually apply them. Give more than you receive is the first translation project – and the result? Production Minus Consumption Equals Happiness.
‘Giving’ and ‘receiving’ are practically undefined terms – it’s difficult to analyze a day of your life and label every moment as one of either. Production and consumption, however, are clearly delineated, and it’s this clarity that allows us to make the philosophy a reality. Production is activity, taking something internal and expressing it, it’s creating, it’s moving, it’s innovating. Consumption is passive – it’s stagnancy, and it thrives on the creativity and work of others. Think back to yesterday and go through every hour and make a mental list of your activity and passivity. Watching TV, reading, surfing the web, and listening to music? Consumption. Writing, running, talking, building, cleaning, and cooking? Production! ‘Work’ is a bit more nuanced. Studying can mean mechanically absorbing information from a lecture or a textbook, yet responding to and discussing that information requires deep thought and active engagement. Attending a presentation at the office leaves you bored and unhappy, but developing your own leaves you proud and confident in the afterglow of shared knowledge.
Here lies the opportunity for change, in transforming your life from a scripted amusement park ride to a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Seek out opportunities for production and build the avenues to access a deeper existence. In the post-religious world we’re mired in the quicksand of existentialism, the desperate search for meaning; ‘productionism’ is handing you a rope, offering an escape from nihilism in exchange for effort. Every day, every hour, that rope is lowered in front of you and all you have to do is reach out, grab it, and climb above passivity to reach elusive satisfaction.