doing good things: it’s a bore

The question of good and evil is a big one. Most people would like to think of themselves as “okay”. Maybe not terrifically good, but at least not terrifically bad. Sure, people make mistakes and are cruel from time to time, but we each like to believe that our good mostly outweighs the bad. Religions often emphasize and try to encourage people to be moral, with greater or lesser success. Even people that consider themselves horrible people still tend to count some of their actions as beneficial to the whole good, and even people that consider themselves ultimately saints know in their hearts that they’re imperfect.

Adding onto this difficulty, there are questions of circumstance. If someone is struggling to survive, surely it isn’t necessary for them to help others since they are exerting so much effort in other worthwhile things? But also, we tend to overestimate how busy we are to make ourselves feel less guilty for not doing more. Helping the poor. Giving comfort to those in need. Being kind and compassionate when there is no external motivating factor like the desire to be seen as socially good.

Some argue that all humans are good, just get pushed down the wrong path by a terrible situation. Some others argue all humans are evil, and we have to fight our instincts to accomplish something good. Still, others feel that a binary of right and wrong is too simple and we should act with the understanding that circumstances are almost always morally ambiguous.

We might not know, and there will almost certainly be disagreement about the particulars, yet regardless we must realize that there is a drive, either internally or externally to do good things from somewhere. If there wasn’t, how would our species have survived this long? What about all of the cooperative relationships and groups that operate every day? Humans can be altruistic, at least to a limited degree. The problem with the argument is that there are so many options and opinions flying around that it becomes easy to justify doing nothing, even when we can do far more. It’s easy to feel like Injustice is so widespread that an individual can do nothing to help. But this isn’t the case. Even if an action is nominal, a good act can still impact someone else’s life for the better. There’s the hope that individuals will all do little things on their own and together that kindness and compassion will make the difference on the whole. However, it’s difficult to feel fulfilled as a tiny dot on a giant balance. Furthermore, even the most basic actions can have many results; who decides the overall absolute value of “goodness”?

Discussions of morality make people uncomfortable because it is almost always associated with shame. We feel like we haven’t done enough. Frankly, we probably haven’t, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our behaviors likely won’t shift in the future either.

So what’s to be done? In our hearts, we know what we have to do, and it’s boring.

The way for most humans to realistically enact change isn’t exciting. Not everyone can or should join the Peace Corps or start a charitable nonprofit. What impacts people is donating to charities who have actual pragmatic goals and ways to achieve them. What impacts people is joining a local club that does blood drives. Working at a soup kitchen. Being around people who are in need is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to deal with the realization that they are human as us. You don’t have to give up everything in your life, you just have to give consistently and practically. It’s dull. It won’t make you feel like a saint, it will more likely make you annoyed because you have yet another commitment to tack on to a large pile. It matters anyway. We can always do something good for others, our situation just dictates what kind of good we are capable of giving. We should do what we can, and what that means will probably change over time. Doing what we can where we can is a much better option, however, than being paralyzed with shame that helps no one.

the joy of an okay day

We aren’t sure yet what tomorrow will bring. We have our best guesses, context clues, and past experiences to rely off of. Yet, these things are not inherently accurate. We could be thrown for a loop! However, for better or worse, tomorrow will probably be ordinary. And you know the most amazing thing? That’s okay. Your day doesn’t have to be spectacularly good or bad.

Perhaps the worst part of life is the uncertainty, and yet we must live with it. We don’t know what sort of day it will be, or what sort of day the next day will be either! While it would be nice to have everything planned out perfectly, many times, it’s out of our hands. We have to wait and see what comes. We need to be patient with both ourselves and others because people don’t change overnight! Rather, they are constantly growing.

Even if it’s an ordinary day, “ordinary” doesn’t automatically translate to bland. We should absolutely work hard and try to make the most out of what we are given! Yet we also need to remember that making the most out of our days doesn’t have to be flashy. If we focus on the little things, we can be more grateful. If we can be more grateful, ordinary becomes something special all on it’s own. So enjoy a warm blanket! Enjoy stretching! Enjoy shoes that fit well! Even if its cold, enjoy how it wakes you up! You don’t have to love everything, but rather as much as you can.

our brains are Transformers, if you roll it out the right way

Our brains are not static blobs of muscle in our head. They are dynamic, plastic, growing pieces of us that literally change everyday of our lives. Each action we take, each bit of information we take in, it becomes a part of us. We learn by our neurons changing their network in slight ways, making pathways easier or harder to follow. That’s amazing. If you haven’t thought about it in a while, just take a moment here. Pathways are making us who we are right now. Nothing about our bodies are static. It’s awe-inspiring, really.

Sometimes we have horrible days, and there’s not much we can do to fix that. Then there’s the good days that we cherish and are grateful and greedy for. However, a lot of times, we just have ordinary days; we have the sort of days no one remembers the date of. From doldrum to doldrum, life can become weary. Yet, even when the day means nothing to us in the big picture, it is affecting us in our neural pathways. We learn, grow, and attach new information to a vast world of connections within us. That’s why it can be easy to forget how much we’ve changed– we don’t often change in an instant. Rather, we most commonly develop slowly, through an accumulation of little nothing-to-remember-about days.

That’s why every day matters. At the start, we never truly know what it’ll turn out. As much as our brains have changed and grown to that point, we could break the pattern we think we’re falling into. Our minds are brilliant for predicting things, but there are always pieces we don’t account for. That uncertainty is surely frightening! And yet, it also matters so much. No, not every day is spectacular. Yet, every moment we are given is open to the possibility of changing for the better. Sure, things could go wrong. Things could be dull. But if you think it’s going to turn out that way, why don’t you try and do something to change that? If you’re going to change anyway, make it for the better.

“only the boring get bored”

“Only the boring get bored”, the phrase seems designed for annoying youth. It reminds me of children saying “I’m bored” and bothering adults who say the phrase because they want them to go away. It bothered me when I first heard it because everyone has been bored before. Even the most excitable child becomes uninterested from time to time, simply as the nature of existence. Furthermore, boring people can have very interesting lives. One might argue that some individuals use their fun actions and activities to account for their being dull in personality; they might in fact be boring but interested.

Being bored, however, seems inevitable. After all, waiting in line isn’t exactly a scintillating, edge of the seat drama. And yet, there is still that core thought: can’t we find passion and meaning in every situation, if we try hard enough? The phrase seems to get at some core belief: if we want to get something done, we need to do it ourselves. It inspires bored people to become better people. But there’s the rub: if we try hard enough. It’s hard to try. We care about a few things, and the rest of the life we become exhausted with it. Trying to care about everything like trying to furiously spoon the entire ocean into the sahara desert.

There’s another important aspect too. Does life have to be interesting? If we are safe and loved and provided for, what does our interest level matter? Obviously it does matter to the human psyche, which is why we have put so much time and effort into entertainment. But you don’t have to be entertained every second of the day. It’s okay to put down the phone and be bored.

By being bored, we come up with some of our most creative ideas. Feel bored, and then use that boredom to motivate beautiful, big things. Being bored doesn’t make you boring, it makes you thirsty for something of more substance. So remain thirsty! Keep searching and working for something more.