Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why be good?

Trev brought up the question on his blog and ... here goes. There are two ways to write this post; Socratic method gets the backseat, playing nice takes too long.

First, good isn't knowable. We simply lack the perspective to understand how things fit together in the big picture. (And why's the big picture worth knowing?)

Second, why? Why anything? Good question; people invent reasons and then have wars over them. Because I want to; that's why.

And really, that's always why; there is always a choice, and people choose what they prefer. Preferences are formed based upon possible outcomes; views of the most desirable possible outcome are based upon beliefs; beliefs are based upon... what?

Uh huh. Well, either it comes from inside you or outside of you.

So. There's no way of knowing, and if we're honest, we just choose what we want anyway. That's true, but doesn't really inform how we live, or make a proposal for how we ought to live; good. The question isn't legitimate in the first place.

Related reading: I wrote a note to Larry in response to his post here, and quote part of it below. Take a look at his post and the discussion there.
It's ironic that when people feel very strongly about what's right (or wrong) and what should be (or should not) that they very often start a war. Deaths of persons, civilizations - and relationships. How many families are divided into factions over some thing or another? I don't mean out there, I mean here, in our own towns and cities.

If I say, perhaps, that right and wrong don't absolutely exist in knowable form, that they are words, descriptors, reflecting out of our experiences and perspective. If one believes that everything works to the greater good... then everything is good, even that which appears, even wars, to be evil.

Okay, I'm really bored. Splat.


Jon said...

Ok, bored Julie, breathe. Breathing isn't boring, it's fascinating! There. Unsplat.

Good post. You conveyed truth, very directly, in a way that made it seem easy... It's hard for me to write about this stuff, but as the saying goes, you go, girl!

Trev Diesel said...

Thanks for chiming in, even if the subject doesn't particularly appeal to you. Your bit of feeback was helpful and a mirror. Here's the response I gave you on my site:

"If ya gotta choose, you're doing it wrong... just knowing right action, right time."

Agreed, Julie.

That's where I am arriving. And yet, the conversation was/is needed to allow me to realize that the conversation is not needed. Make any sense?


anonymous julie said...

Breathing is, dear Jon. ;-) Thanks for appreciating my non-Socratic method and lack of justification. Test it, though; it's true; it's self-authenticating.

Trev, it's not that it doesn't appeal... it just seems irrelevant. But it's well worth it to hear I am arriving... nobody can get you there, nobody can keep you there - except for you. We can have this discussion that focuses on principles and circles the experience, or describe the experience. Sometimes it helps to draw the circle before finding the center (it does, after all, provide some ground to work with, and that's a good thing). So I felt like Isaiah, bored by his own writing, needing to draw the circle for lack of another approach. (I presume.) And again, sometimes it's the best we can do to draw the circle. It's perfectly legitimate... and if I didn't want to contribute... I wouldn't. ;-) Knowing about isn't the same as knowing - but you have to know for yourself. :)

And now I've circled about what I'm trying to say, but I think you'll see the center of the circle. :)

Andrew said...

Isn't getting bored with your own writing/thinking a crucial part of the process?

I mean, I started writing about what I really wanted to write about when I realized I was bored shitless with what I was writing about instead (because I thought other people would find it interesting).

So if you're already bored, let your boredom be your teacher. If you're not, don't worry about it. You'll get there.

Meadow said...

I studied a religion that taught that there is no such thing as evil because everything is God. I don't agree with that. I think there is such a thing as evil.

Why? It's just my preference. :)

anonymous julie said...

Andrew; what process? With what goal? I guess I'm finding myself digging up stuff I went through already and had sorta forgotten about... but not recorded. Kinda like gravity, just there in the background. Where are those breadcrumbs? This might sound even worse; I write for myself, and primarily to remind myself, to record what matters. What matters now rather than what mattered then,... but even the thought of boredom... just went splat; that amused me.

Renee, welcome! I won't ask you to believe anything that doesn't ring true with you, or just because somebody else says so. In fact, I'd ask you not to - but it's up to you. ;)

Jim said...

To Each their Own, Bored is as Bored does. Same dribble, Same day, Same life, Same crap. So What?

Why should you be any different?

No expectations, No hopes, No longterm desire, Nothing important?

What's to say? But I hate to hear 'splat', it reminds me of a worlds ways that I live to see undone.

I work on my problems best I can, keeps me interested, never bored.

Good luck with yours.

Andrew said...


What process? Well, evolution, I guess. Looking at things from the side that evolves, anyway.

I write, like I do most other things, for all kinds of reasons. I had a flash of insight several months ago when I was writing this impassioned theological diatribe and it suddenly struck me: I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS AT ALL. I just thought I did; I had been going on momentum for--how long? Years? Maybe. It wasn't just a change of opinion; more that the whole edifice just kind of collapsed (splat!). Anyway, now I sit with boredom when it arises.

Jim said...

After reading what Andrew has to say, I have to remark that I fully understand. 'splat' the collapsing, after years of strain and concentration, yes, perhaps finally I understand.

I came back to assure you that my previous remarks were made as friendly and with your best interest at heart, I have always recognized your intelligence and talent, and I have always wanted to encourage you to use your full package of gifts in the most beneficial and fulfilling and rewarding way, that is all it has ever been about. Your agility, leaping mentally like an athelete from insight to insight, drawing out the understanding and fine points of truth and reality, opening the subject to new looks and appraisals, this ability to Think and Examine and Investigate yourself and your experiences, Introspective and analytical and even self-critical, this power that you seem to Naturally possess, this is what I call 'your best interests'.

Anyway, in the spirit of friendship and tolerance and Oneness and Love and Peace, I bid you Good Morning, and now, Good Day.

CE said...

99.99 % of our thoughts are selfish.

anonymous julie said...


This morning when I read your comment I cheered, "wahoo!" Really. Now I don't know why, upon reading your comment again - but I must have thought - he does understand! Once in awhile I find myself impassioned, caring - like Wednesday, when I wanted to sail, or thought I wanted to, and couldn't. (Led to a couple hour bout of stupidity that I was glad to be done with. Egads, attachments, expectations, suffering!) Or at work, when something seems to matter... but it doesn't, I just argue for the fun of interacting, for the fun of finding a better solution.

Travis Jay Morgan said...

Everything is relative, and when we do not see the oneness of all things, we tend to perceive with discriminative views of "that" being more valuable then "this" as if they were seperate. There is no good, nor bad, nor beauty, nor ugly. Things are as they are. Our minds place the discrimination.

Bob said...

In 'Hamlet' Polonious declares something like: "be true to yourself and it follows as the night follows the day that you will not be false to any man".

I try to follow my heart; it is more trustworthy than my concepts of 'right' and 'wrong'.

Bob said...

Another famous Shakespeare quote is: "nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so."

anonymous julie said...

Imemine, probably so. So? And? Many people would like to say, well, that's bad, that's evil, to think only of yourself.

Travis, I really enjoyed your comment. Everything is relative? No absolute? At all? Are you sure?

Rob, "this above all, Horatio, to thine own self be true." 'Tis been my own aim for ages, methinks it a wise one. Some people would ask, how do you know your heart's voice? Or, how do you know it is God speaking. Only as a point of curiosity - how do you, or, do you, at all?

"Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." I think, Rob, that we create our own reality to a far greater extent than we realize.

Bob said...

If I remember correctly these words (to thine own self be true) were spoken by Polonius to Laertes. I could be wrong however!

I think that with practice one gets a definite feeling when the heart is speaking rather than the mind. Of course this is an area where meditation helps considerably.

E said...

I tend to follow the "be true to yourself" as best I'm able. Movie KPAX had the line "Every being in the universe knows right from wrong". Seemed slightly relevant.
Thanks for making detour from Isaiah's to say hi.

Kevin Beck said...

You're really bored? How can you *know* that?


Anonymous said...

After having read your post and some of the comments, I can only repeat my favorite sentence in my life: Who gives a sh*t?
Really, except maybe my friends and family who "love" me out of habbit and maybe because who I am, who else does care about my existence? There is no why or whatever word you would like to call it. I'm not pessimistic about this, I'm just a 26y old, disillusioned boy in a world of egocentric thinking and you know what? I don't care what people think about me. Sound egocentric too? Well, quite possible, but I know the people who should care about me, do care and vice versa. Nothing more, nothing less.

There is absolutely no reason after anything. Reasons are mindgames we imagine for ourselves to search a meaning after what we do. But who cares for reasons? I know I don't! If my friends like to call me up to have a drink, I don't go searching around to see if they really want to spend their time with me or they just want to have some company. Searching for reasons can make you go completely crazy (I know I do), so refrain from this, please ...

The first thing I thought when reading your post was the scene in Matrix Reloaded when they search for the Keymaker and meet the Merovingian. But after thinking about what to write, I came to the conclusion that your post is actually a generalization instead of something particular.
Quite refreshing...

anonymous julie said...

Rob; you're absolutely right. How did Horatio get into my head? Perhaps in an alternate universe...

Ethan, thanks also for stopping by. I'm increasingly understanding the effect of an internal unity. Good quote, too - it might seem contrary, but I do agree, and it is slightly relevant. Loose associations are always welcome over here - and so are you, if you care to hang around!

Kevin, well, I was! Studying history is most fun when the events are fresh or the story is good - and then there is still a newness to it! But the post has been altogether worthwhile for the interactions that have come from it... so maybe I'll endure boredom more often...

Bert, what a great comment. Thank you! Sound egocentric too? My answer (and, it seems, yours too): maybe, so what? Sometimes I wonder why, but it has become more a random musing, as picking up an object of curiosity, looking at it, and setting it back down again. (Such as my idle questions about changing gender roles.) Most days I think we're just all trying to make sense of our observations. What defines who "should" care? I'll watch Matrix Reloaded. Your initial reaction would have been interesting, too, but, yes, I was trying to describe things generally. Some of us seem to be 40 from the time we are 21...

goatman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hi Julie

I sometimes wonder what the world expects from us, the so called new generation? We've been raised in a post-Generation-X-environment and we have to carry the burden of years of egological and political instability. This has also influenced our social habits and most of all, our emotions towards others. Yes, we are the MTV-generation, who cares. What's with all this namegiving...? I'm who I am. Am as unique as everyone else and as unreplaceable as all those at the graveyard.... It's time the worlds accepts our generation for who we are and come to the insight that our global egocentric thinking is their fault, not ours. We struggle hard to withstand it and that's our burden of life.
Really, the "I don't care" mentality is not something that has spontaneously errupted on a bright monday morning ...

Anonymous said...

Bert, on "reason"...let me present this:

Let's say I have a sickness in which if not cured I will die in 4 years. However, If I am able to find what the "reason" of my sickness is, such as an airborne virus I've come in contact with and present it to the doctors, they may be able to do testing and create a cure.

Now lets say, I had the "I don't care" or "who gives a sh*t" mentality, as you put it, and instead of finding the reason to my sickness I went ahead and continued watching MTV and playing with my friends until I died 4 years later.

Now, what if you had a young daughter or son, who happened to catch the same airborne disease as I, and he or she were certain to death in 4 years because the people before them didn't care and thought reasons were "mind games" as you say, and therefore, no cure was developed. Who cares...right, they were going to die eventually anyways.(being sarcastic)

"I don't care"...? there is enough of that these days... I wish more people did care. Whatever happened to compassion, love, and understanding? Oh yea... It got replaced by the gererationIDontCare age.

You say,
"It's time the worlds accepts our generation for who we are and come to the insight that our global egocentric thinking is their fault, not ours."

True in the sense that we are reactions to the actions before us. However, it does not excuse any finger pointing and "I am not responsible for my actions" or "it's not my fault I'm this way". However, the fact that you state that this "global egocentricism" is a fault, reflects your understanding of right and wrong. But since "it's not your fault" and "who cares" and "who needs reason" why bother doing anything about it, right.? You could start with yourself, as we all need to, but "who cares". .(being sarcastic again)

I'm not attacking your views or anything like that, so don't take offense. I am simply stating mine. I for one, do care, and respect your opinion. I use "reason" to help me gain a better "understanding" of the world in which I am part of and contribute to. You, and everyone else are my bothers and sisters. I only wish to make it a better place for all of us, and I don’t feel the “I don’t care” mentality will do it.

anonymous julie said...

I suppose, Travis, that it's up to Bert to speak his part, but I think (perhaps I am wrong) that you are misreading.

If I were the one with the disease, I would search for the cause, yes. But I would not "care" whether it was found - my attitude would be that I am making every reasonable (and hey, maybe more) effort, doing what I can to tip the chances in my favor... and just let go of it. That's the kind of "I don't care" that I am reading here.

But it's also descriptive of the kind of unneccessary worry that I am learning (still have bad days) not to have. Change what I can, accept what I can't, and know the difference, ya know? There's a difference between claiming responsibility for the outcome of one's actions, and becoming very attached to them. So in that way I think it's an effective way to move through life. But I didn't read it as a universal "I don't care", either. Clarification, Bert?

A question, a point of curiosity; how do you know what's "better"?

Travis Jay Morgan said...

Julie, I understood that this "I don't" care" was meant to be the "it's not my problem, it's not worth letting it bother me" kind. However, it's still an escape/defense mechanism rather then the answer to all of life’s problems. The "I don't care" tends to arise when something really bothers someone for what ever reason, and they feel there is nothing they can do about it, so they tell themselves that they "don't care" to remove the "bother". It's like an aspirin; it removes the pain, but not the problem. Instead of trying to understand the situation and trying to get the problem fixed, you continuously have to keep taking the aspirin. But instead of it being aspirin, it’s your feelings that you are turning off.

Rather, then "not caring," we can still care without allowing ourselves to be bothered, and this is through "understanding". But for one that does not find the value of "reason", I would imagine that understanding would be a difficult task, and “not caring” would require less effort. I’d rather put more effort into “understanding” as it keeps one aware, wide eyed to the truth, and alive…then walk forever bitter, one eye shut, feelings turned off, just because it’s easier.

Julie, My first post, you replied with “Travis, I really enjoyed your comment. Everything is relative? No absolute? At all? Are you sure?” Yes, everything is relative…that is, everything has a relationship with everything else. However, at the same time, there is absolute. “Change” is consistent, is it not? Such wonderful paradoxes of the world. :)

Moving on… the original topic of this whole discussion was based on the question that Trev presented, “why be good?”
First, we must define what is “good”? Is “good” not a prejudice, a discrimination, to begin with? Before, we one can answer ““why be good?” First, one has to determine what “good” is, and if it even “is” before we answer the “why”.

Good questions nonetheless, that I feel can only help us to understand our way.

Anonymous said...

Wow, sorry bout the late response, I've had some busy days at work etc....

Travis, I too do respect your opinion, but it's like Julie says: if something bad should happen to me, it would devestate me, but I would rather go by a "carpe diem"-attitude. I would do everything to make my life and that of my friends as happy as possible.

My so called "I don't care"-mentality fits in this definition when viewing from following angle: I have the disease, there is nothing than can be done about it, so be it. I'll continue my life and hey, try to make it even better! For what else is there to do? Think too much and you'll become one unhappy person and sorry to say, but I don't have time for that nor the natural reflex. :)

What I meant with the mtv-generation is this: we carry the burden of the golden 60's and the decadent 70's. The youth then has now evolved into adults, but their children, like myself, try to stand up against this generation. But not in the same way as was planned: we tried to flee into new experiments, new kind of music, new social behaviour, .... And yes, we like this, we try to make our lifes as happy as possible, even if the older generation doesn't quite see the whole picture. Maybe we do get lonely once and a while, but who doesn't? Or better, who didn't?
I agree, the internet is quite dangerous for our social behaviour, but if that's what we like to do, then let us be, no?

We really have to fight against a huge wall of prejudice and I think mainly because we stood up against another generation, a generation that enjoyed the wealth of the world without considering the damaged it caused. I don't want to generalize, far from it, but this is how me and my friends feel it.

We are not a lost generation, we do care about ourselves and our friends, only in a different way than 20 years earlier.