Good and Evil (again)

I was reading an article earlier today where the author asked if we thought that people were inherently good or evil.  I have been asked that question before and I have always answered the same.  I don’t believe that people are inherently evil as a group, but I don’t think that as a whole we are good.  There are, however, a few choice individuals who stand out as either evil or good.

What defines good versus evil and the masses?

For starters, I think that evil people are those that have no conscience.  There are a lot of people out there that do a lot of bad things.  I have done a lot of bad things.  But, that doesn’t make me or anyone else that errs evil.  I feel remorse for those things that I have done wrong as I think most people do.  The problem lies, then, in those people that don’t care about the things that they’ve done that cause strife or inflict some sort of harm.  Serial killers fall into this category, but not necessarily people who have committed crimes of passion.  I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that people who have committed crimes of passion are good people, but as they may later feel remorse for their actions, I’m not sure that I can actually classify them as evil.  People who hurt children.  I will make an exception to the remorse rule for these people because it doesn’t matter if you feel remorse later when it comes to children – they can’t defend themselves.  Besides, I think that people who hurt children really like it and I’m not so sure that their remorse isn’t really feigned.  I’m not a trained clinician, so I can’t really make that determination.  I’ll move on.

What, then, constitutes a good person?  People with integrity.  I challenge any reader to pick a day and pay close attention to all of your interactions with the people around you.  How many people do what they tell you they are going to do?  How many are honest, at least most of the time?  How many of them can you really rely on?  How many are true to themselves?  Which people do you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, mean what they say and say what they mean?  Are any of them two-faced?  It’s a pretty slim margin of people that really have integrity, isn’t it?  I think that in addition to having integrity, good people think about others.  Not just in an, “Oh, I wonder how Madge is doing today,” kind of way, but they really think of others.   Good people are helpful, kind, and genuine.   They share, they give, and they love.  And good people aren’t judgmental.  Know anyone like that?

Then there’s everyone else.  Some of us lean towards being good.  We help others sometimes, but only when we’re really called upon.  We’re not really bad, though – we don’t go out of our way to hurt people and when we do we say we’re sorry.  But, we often lack integrity and will say things behind our coworkers’ backs.  We’ll say we’re going to do something and never get around to it, or make a friendly gesture that we didn’t really mean in the first place.  It doesn’t really make us bad people, but it doesn’t make us good people, either.  We just kind-of float around doing whatever it is that makes us happy for the moment and don’t give much thought to everyone else.

“What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts.”

~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

Maybe we can aspire to be better, and maybe it’s all innate.  Regardless, I think that most of us are neither good nor bad, but somewhere in the middle.  And those who achieve greatness to one degree or the other are anomalies, whether of their own making or not.

 

Advertisements

A Future Wonder of the World?

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we… are the cure.”

– Agent Smith, The Matrix

The Earth is changing at a phenomenal rate.  Sometimes when I think about it, it’s really quite scary.  Will I be around when water is as valuable a resource as cash is today?  What would that world be like and how would I fit into it?  Nothing would be the same.   Commerce would be entirely different and everything that we value today would fall to the wayside.  I don’t want to live in a world without comforts and animals and, well, an ecosystem.

While I understand the complexities of making drastic changes to the ways that we are accustomed to living our lives and the inconvenience and expense it would take to make Earh-saving changes, it will be imperative to do so if we want our planet to survive.  Call it Global Warming, overpopulation, or Whatever terms you prefer.  But it’s happening.  The unfortunate part is how little we, as individuals, can do to make a substantial difference.

Jason Decaires Taylor, however, has found a way to impact the environment in ways that may seem small but in the end will have a positive, lasting impact.

Not only has he found a way to make the Earth a better place, he has done so through art.  For time eternal, his work will not only be functional but beautiful.

Why aren’t there more efforts like this everywhere?

Charity of the Heart

All day long I thought about what I would post tonight.  I can wax poetic until the end of the world about all of the social injustices I see, but I was hoping for something happier, something brighter, maybe even something uplifting.   But I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound hokey.  That, and my day really bit the weenie.  Really.

My partner and I decided to go out for dinner this evening because she didn’t have a very good day, either.  We decided on a chain restaurant.  It was someplace we were familiar with and it had stuff we knew we liked, so we were all in.  On the way there, we passed by a little cafe that we have seen a million and two times before but for whatever reason, she asked if I wanted to go there instead and I said yes.  Boy am I glad I said yes.

The cafe was like a coffeehouse, a bar, and a restaurant all in one.  Just past the foyer, a group of women sat together in a huddle on a sofa and chairs chatting and knitting.  The bar was off to the right.   There was a stage for musicians to play in the restaurant area, and not long after we arrived, a guitarist came in and began to set up to play for the evening.

It felt warm there, and inviting, not a typical find around this area.  I loved it immediately.

I think what really made the rest of the night was our server.  Her name was Donna, and everything she said or did she performed with the most genuine smile I have seen or more importantly, felt, in longer than I can recall.  She engaged us for longer than she needed to, offered more then the evening’s specials, and made us feel truly welcome.  Places of business talk about making their patrons feel like guests, but in truth, I don’t want to feel like a guest. That always makes me feel weird and out of place.  I want to feel exactly the way I felt tonight — as if I have stumbled into the comfortable home of an old friend and am being treated like they know me well.

After dinner, I realized just how much Donna had changed the course of my day.  It didn’t take much, just a bit of pleasant conversation and a genuine smile.  What a powerful, transformative tool and what little effort it took on her part.

How often do we transform the lives of others when all it would take is just a genuine smile and perhaps a few minutes of conversation?   What if we all took just a few minutes and spoke to one person and enjoyed them every day?  I wonder what kind of effect it would have on our society as a whole.  What boundaries could we break through, what bridges could we cross, how many hurts could we mend?  I would be willing to bet the implications are limitless.

Tonight, Donna was a hero.  She actually did save my day and I am grateful.  Tonight’s post would have otherwise had a much different tone.  Tomorrow, I will wake up and remember what she did for me today and I will smile.  And then I will pass it on.

 

“Kindness is the greatest wisdom.”  ~Author Unknown

 

 

 

“A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats…” an Ebb Tide Will Sink ‘Em

A coworker recently had a friend who lost her home, all of her belongings, and the family pets in a fire.  The family was at home when a gas pipe blew, and they were lucky to have made it out alive.  I can’t imagine what that must be like.  My coworker has a really big heart and first posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone had extra clothing that they could donate, the family would be very appreciative.  She then sent out an email to everyone at our office explaining the situation and asking the same of our fellow coworkers.  The outpouring of support was amazing.

Almost immediately, one person stepped forward and suggested a bake sale to help raise money for the family.  I thought it was a fantastic idea.  So did most of the people in the office that like to bake.  That is, except for one.

This second coworker came to me and said that she was a little irritated that she had received the company email asking for help for this family.  She explained to me that she has no problem when it comes to helping animals because they can’t help themselves, but people can and she resented feeling “guilted” into helping.  Continuing on, she explained that if it were her friends that had lost everything, she wouldn’t expect her coworkers to offer assistance to people they didn’t know, and she wouldn’t feel comfortable asking them to help.  She then went into a long explanation of how she felt that if the family owned the home then the insurance company would cover everything lost in the fire, down to their toothbrushes, so they didn’t really need all of this help anyway.  And if they were renters, then they should have had renters’ insurance.  She ended her speech by saying, “It’s not that I’m not a giving person…”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  There was absolutely no compassion whatsoever from her in regards to this family’s loss.

For the next couple of days while the details of the bake sale were being hashed out and people were signing up for which baked goods they would donate, any time someone asked what she was going to contribute, she would explain that she didn’t mind sharing her food but she didn’t believe in selling it.  I’m not sure why she didn’t share the same story with everyone that she did with me.  Maybe she knew it didn’t sound right and didn’t want to be shunned because of her convictions.  But, until the last day, she held fast to the idea that she wasn’t baking a single thing for that bake sale.

The day of the sale, however, she did bring in a couple of dishes.  When asked about it, she said that she hadn’t originally signed up because she didn’t want to feel pressured into baking.  On her way home the night before, the baking bug had hit her, so she decided to go ahead and make a few things since there was no pressure to have to if she didn’t want to.

It all worked out well in the end, though, so why rehash this story?

We have become a nation of me, gimme, more, mine, mine, mine. If it doesn’t take care of my needs, get me ahead, make me happy, or make me feel good, then it doesn’t matter to me. The level of greed and self servitude is growing at an alarming rate, and not just at the top of the corporate ladder.  In this case, my coworker was just an average office worker who didn’t want to help a family that had just lost everything they had except the clothes on their backs.  Why should she bother?  After all, the insurance company should take care of them, not her or you or me.  That family should take care of themselves.  After a fire, with no place to live, they should be able to just get right back on their feet.

Wonder where they were supposed to live while they were waiting for that insurance check to clear?  Where were they supposed to wash that one set of clothes, and what were they supposed to wear while that set was washing?  It’s winter time.  Did they grab their coats while they were fleeing the house that literally exploded into flames?  There were four kids.  Wonder how they were going to feed the kids?  Did they have money set aside in a checking account?  Did their checks burn up?  What about credit cards or debit cards — did those make it out of the fire?  If not, how would they pull any money that they might have out of the bank?  How long could they survive on what they had until they got paid again, adding in the extra, unplanned expense of alternative housing?

How long could any of us do any of those things without help?

It’s not as though that family chose to have their house burn.  They weren’t asking for a handout because they didn’t feel like getting out and doing something to better their situation.  They weren’t loafing and living on the leg of the American taxpayer.  They lost their home, their pets, and nearly their lives.

So why the resistance to help?  I can’t pretend to understand it.  This coworker tirelessly gives her time and money to animal rescue efforts, just not for people.

We can accomplish so many things when we all work together.  Shall we all join hands and sing a campfire song now?  Seriously, though, I think  this sums it up nicely:

“I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

William Penn

I hold out hope that humanity is not losing its humanity.

Gabbing About Gaga

Facebook is an amazing thing.  It can be an incredible tool for connecting to long lost friends, or keeping in touch with friends and family that might live far away.  Sometimes, however, it can be a place where the darker side of human nature comes out, and where we can hide behind the avatar of a profile picture and say whatever we want to say.  After all, no one gets hurt when all we are are pixels on a screen pushing keys to pop out a blurb of typeface, right?

Very recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she thought Lady Gaga was a creep.  Though I’m personally a huge Gaga fan, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that would have been fine in and of itself.   What really struck me, however, was the response from one of her friends, dressed in military uniform in his profile picture, stating that he wanted to “punch her in the face very, very hard.”  I was really taken aback by that statement and have been turning it around in my head ever since.  Let’s think about it.

What could make a person hate a musician so much that they wanted to hurt them?  There are a lot of musicians out there that I don’t like, and some that I even have no respect for.  But I can’t think of a single musician that makes me want to inflict bodily harm upon them.  Not one.  I’ll give an example.  I am not a big fan of rap music.  In fact, I think it sounds angry and though I appreciate where it comes from and the artistry behind it, it’s not something I choose to listen to.  That said, I don’t want to pop a cap in a rapper’s ass just because I don’t like their songs.  Sounds kind-of stupid from that perspective, so it must be something else.  Maybe her message?

The only person that can speak her message is Gaga herself.  Let’s take a look at some quotes.

“Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.”
— Lady Gaga

“Sometimes in life you don’t always feel like a winner, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a winner, you want to be like yourself. I want my fans to know it’s okay.”
— Lady Gaga

“You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.”
— Lady Gaga

Those things sound pretty positive to me.  I realize that these are hand-picked and that she has said some pretty crazy stuff, too, but all it takes is a few minutes to dig through YouTube and watch a few interviews to hear Gaga make the case for herself.  She essentially tells people to be themselves, that it’s okay to be different.  I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.  Because deep down, we’re all different from each other, no matter how much we try to fit in.  So, it could be that her message really got under this guy’s skin.  I doubt that as an adult American military male, supporting people for being who they are would be enough to want to punch a woman in the face over, right?

Well, then, maybe it’s her fashion sense.  She sure does wear some outlandish things.  Let’s take a look.

Would the Kermit dress make someone violent?  Can’t remember the last time the Muppets made me want to hit people.  What about the infamous meat dress?

When asked about her outfit, Lady Gaga said, “Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth,” said Gaga. “However, it has many interpretations but for me this evening. If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat.”  (Source)  That doesn’t seem very inflammatory, either.

There are others that could potentially be problematic for our military friend, but no matter how many images I conjured from the vast expanse of Google’s gallery, there wasn’t anything that I could find that would make me feel like it was a justification, from a fashion perspective, for the expression of violence.  I’ve seen worse on Go Fug Yourself and some of those people aren’t even trying to make a statement.

So, what is it then?  What could possibly make this man want to punch Lady Gaga in the face very, very hard?  She has to pose some sort of threat, because as humans, unless we’re just total assholes, we typically only lash out in self defense or when we feel threatened.  Could it be that her ability to express herself provocatively at times, artistically at others, but definitely in ways that go against the mainstream are uncomfortable for him?   Hmmm.  Aren’t those the types of freedoms that we share as Americans, the very freedoms of expression and free speech that our military fights for?

Or are we teaching our military that violence against women is okay?  I don’t even want to think about that one.

I don’t have all the answers.  I hope that this guy was kidding and that he didn’t really mean it.  Unfortunately, there’s so much anger and hatred and just plain meanness floating around in the discourse of our society that I can’t dismiss it as nothing.  He took the time to put it into black and white and it happened that someone who didn’t know him came upon his comment and read it.  No matter what we think, no matter how anonymous we feel we are, even behind our avatars and our keyboards, behind our monitors and our mice, behind our tweets and our blogs, we are all still human behind the facades.  Even Lady Gaga.

Maybe especially Lady Gaga.