Posted by: zhiv | January 18, 2008

The Core Philosophy

I promise to get to the point and write about books, but for some reason I feel a need to get some introductory material out of the way.

For a long time I got a lot of mileage out of talking about what I called “The Core Philosophy,” which was very simple:  “Do Nothing.”  If you saw the tagline or the last post, this shouldn’t be a surprise.  It has always been a joke, sort of, as in one of those jokes that is pretty true and you take it pretty seriously, but you don’t really want to own it.  I’m a little uncomfortable even calling it my core philosophy even now, and feel a little safer saying “the core philosophy.” I feel like I’ve moved on, but it was fun while it lasted.

And it’s a pretty fascinating concept to explore.  It’s impossible to do nothing.  It’s actually very hard to practice the core philosophy, trying to do as little as possible.   

 I believe my first Core Philosophy was a meaningful catchphrase that my old group adopted with gusto:  whatever it takes.  This had a macho, rugged spirit to it, and was a hearty can-do motto, if you will, the beginnings of a philosophy.  If you’ve seen the previous post, you can see how zhiving can be adapted to “whatever it takes” (the “whatever” sounds like a bit of a zhiv), as well as “Do Nothing.”  But “Do Nothing” is more profound and inclusive, beginning to explore the zen of zhiving. 

The Core Philosophy served me well through a long dry spell at work.  All too well, you might say.  Things just seem to happen and events run their course.  If the Core Philosophy is seen as a sort of anti-Pyramid of Success, with “Do Nothing” at its apex, the corners of its foundation are two conflicting statements:  “Nothing happens if you don’t do it yourself” (familiar and thought-provoking in the proper context), and “Empty yourself of desire.”  My thought was that somewhere in the midst of this dynamic triangle one would find “homeostasis,” the perfect balance and harmony.

When you start looking around for nothing, you begin to find it everywhere.  “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.”  And there’s Seinfeld, of course, the show about nothing.  I collected a few choice quotes over the years, and would happily look for more. 

For various reasons, I guess I’ve moved on.  But I couldn’t very well begin and explain zhiving and not talk about the Core Philosophy, now could I?  And in my new world of desire, where things happen (like setting up a blog) because I do them myself, I guess I was casting around for a new philosophy over the course of the past year, and stumbled on it recently, over the holidays.  My good friend, who is mastering the art of proclamation, stumbled on it as a mere aside, when he ended a description of throwing a “symptomatic” number of parties over the course of the year:  “give give give!”

So there you the progression, at least for now:

whatever it takes

do nothing

give give give


  1. Love the philosphy and that it’s “sort of the anti-Pyramid of Success.” Very clever and I know exactly what you’re talking about. So there, my first response to your blog. I’ll get to reading Yates soon…

  2. NR — awesome. You should tell JP that you love the core philosophy and are really intrigued by it. Just see what she says. It’ll be fun, I promise.

    And maybe take a look at this:

    Did you look at any of the other blogs I showed you? What’s up at Bruins Nation?

    Had a great time at your party, btw.

  3. Is there a zhiv 101 reading list so I can fully internalize the Core Philosophy?

  4. Neurotic: That’s a good question. My immediate response would be that a reading list itself is rather antithetical to the Core Philosophy. And “internalize” is a rather loaded verb, don’t you think–let alone “fully internalize.” Full internalization has to be some form of absolute nothingness, and the only thing that springs to mind is the final days of the Bush Administration.

    The Neurotic Parent–see all the posts on “literary parenting”–is pretty much an anti-Core Philosophy figure, but her wry sense of helplessness and futility has a nice zhiv ring to it, as if the entire college application process from the parent’s perspective is a classic Sisyphisian task. So ask yourself: what was Sisyphis really doing, anyway? Nothing, right?

    You get my drift. As far as a reading list goes, first I would say that reading itself is a pretty pure expression of the Core Philosophy, kind of “doing as little as possible.” How about “Being and Nothingness”–Sartre, right? I have no idea, really, and what is there to really “know” about Sartre? This all takes me back to my early philosophy days (and with my “NPI Fellow” status, of course I just went through Wesleyan courses, and corrected one of my own freshman year mistakes about which philosophy class to take) and Socrates claiming to “know nothing.” For someone attempting to begin a humble practice of zhiv philosophy and attempting to embrace the Core Philosophy, the key here is simply “knowing” that there’s a “Being and Nothingness” volume that might be a good place to begin, which is an artful zhiv in itself, along with trying to pin down that Socrates guy and his “sweet nothings.”

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