What would it mean to be good? I wrote “I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person” and it felt like a huge insight: everyone wants to be able to live with themselves, and that gets in the way of seeing themselves clearly.
I am amazed by a self-pitying rant on fb from someone I met once, who carried around with him the defining characteristic of his life, as if his heart was really on his sleeve. I can’t give details as it might identify him. He could just have walked away but was self-sacrificing; it could be noble, passive-aggressive, ridiculous, a pure act of love. I liked him. He was doing his best under difficult circumstances. Now I find he is on a fb group I am on, when I read his complaint of being accused of being a misogynist by the woman he chose to marry. Um. I read on and find she has sought an injunction against him for harassment. I don’t know whether this is the woman who did not participate in the self-sacrifice, or a different woman.
His self-righteousness is such that he can tell of her allegation of his being a control freak, even dangerous, and seek sympathy. He goes round healing workshops in tears. He’s been judged negatively. He shares his Great Wisdom: it is the sitting with, the processing, the allowing of the pain, that, as it works its way through me and out of me, seems to create space for a flowering, a blossoming to take place.
Look, mate, if she’s getting the courts and the police on you it’s time to back off, however much she has let you down. How is this working for you, exactly?
And another says, Bless you. You are a warrior. You believe in yourself, your broken vulnerable heart finds your way.
Ah, self-belief. What’s that like? Today I am thinking about a meeting, and rather than thinking what it might achieve I am thinking of all that could go wrong.
I have no idea what “good” is. I grew up with a Daily Mail morality, I am now hard-Left; I was conservative Christian- abortion bad, gay bad, saying “There is no health in us” in a general confession every week- and I am now liberal Christian. I lie, feel guilty about it, tell myself I could not do better. I can forgive myself a lot. Perhaps I get it wrong both ways, tolerating aspects I should seek to change, being hard on myself when I could do no other.
Also on fb: “Sometimes I’m so down on myself”. It is not just me. We judge ourselves and get unhappy. We direct our anger against ourselves rather than the world.
Will Self writes of a man who nurses his unrequited passion for a woman. She allowed him to attend her musical performances, but not to approach her. Instead, she allows him to write to her once a week, and he does, copiously. She never replies. This is insane. But romantic Love is not there to make us happy; it has no purpose at all, it just happens to have coincided with enough successful parturitions to be a common trait. If I think too often of a woman that I am nervous of seeing, if I cannot just switch that off, though it is not as bad as it was four months ago-
I want to be able to live with myself. I have all sorts of guilt and second-guessing, denial, misinterpretation; it could be a hiding to nothing. Can I free myself of any of this?
-Accept- it is as it is, I am as I am…
Every day is a new day…
act to achieve real-world desires not produce emotional states…
If pressed to define good, I would say it is whatever promotes human flourishing. That means the flourishing of the whole biosphere, and the fulfilment and happiness of the greatest number. Nietsche put it differently: What is good? Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases – that resistance is overcome. At the moment, I am not good by either definition. I am closer to the first, but far less than promoting human flourishing I am reduced to not causing much harm- and even on that, I am part of the oppression of food animals and third world sweat shops.
Jesus said, Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. I can’t manage my difficulty living with myself by calling myself in any meaningful way “good”. It involves too much denial. Perhaps I am good enough, as good as I can be. I have needs and desires and I act to gain them. My managing to live with myself is more about considering my intentions, and deciding they are good enough. This might be too high a price to pay; there might be better ways of living with myself.