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.

Click A if you’ve messed up

We are not always our best selves. Most of the time, we are our typical selves, the ones that mess up in social interactions, miss due dates, and surprise ourselves with our own mediocrity. We have conflicting desires to be unique and fit in. We want to be noticed, but not out cast or put under too much pressure.

The thing is, that’s okay. It’s okay to look at yourself and realize that you are a normal person, because we are each normalized to our culture and time. If we didn’t fit in to a certain degree, our ability to survive would be greatly lessened. There are enough differences in our experiences that we will always be able to learn something new, and that’s a good thing! Being able to expand our knowledge is exciting and helps us consider other people’s perspectives.

We aren’t wholly put together, and we fail daily to do all the things we want to. We are human, mistakes will happen. However, we can do more! We can be kinder, smarter, healthier, more curious, more driven, more considerate! You’ve made the mistakes you’ve made, and that will always be the case, but starting in this present moment, you can try to be better than that. Trying again is terrifying at times, but it’s worth it because it helps us experience the best life we can get.

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.

Moronic mistakes

We can always tell what was an idiotic decision after we made it, but somehow rarely before. Hindsight is 20/20. We want to believe that we somehow will be immune to the faulty thought processes in the future. At the end of the day, however, our mistakes are our own. People have died in ridiculous ways because they just didn’t think about it. On paper, it’s super easy to point out the logical inconsistencies, but we don’t often operate on logic as our primary method of processing.

Our initial emotional reaction is what drives us, and logic is just a filter we put over it. Logic is a filter that requires effort and energy to use, so when we’re tired or just cognitively lazy, we don’t use it. Everyone makes stupid mistakes because everyone gets tired. We become lazy and take risks that don’t always pay off like we want them to. We should avoid stupid mistakes, it’s true. However, we are always going to end up making them. 

And that’s okay. When life throws us obstacles, we learn how to drive better. It’s bothersome and takes up our time, it’s genuinely not fun at all. Still, we are better for it afterwards. We learn to be more careful with the dishes, not put expensive  things in precarious positions, learn to control our tongues– we learn. That is the key. It would be nice to not feel uncomfortable at all and always do everything perfectly, but we are mortal. It is bring able to be a moron that makes us appreciate when we get it right. It is by learning and growing that we are given purpose. It’s okay to be an idiot by accident.