9.13.2007

Being Good

Are you being a good person if you’re trying to be a good person? Does it count if you’re conscious of the fact, if you’re measuring your own progress, which then by definition contains some self-congratulations? Doesn’t that negate the goodness or at least diminish the selflessness of it?

How about those who are just good by nature, who operate unconsciously? One could argue that since their goodness is effortless they deserve less credit. However, we tend to praise those born into goodness as if somehow, somewhere, they created their own nature.

My nature feels born of less goodness. My quibbling brain. The scowls my face births effortlessly. The judgments of my mind I strive to silence even though they exist only in thought. Does fighting what I dislike about my nature elevate my goodness rating or does my innate badness trump action? And does my interest in my rating further lower my goodness factor?

In this Catch 22, my striving for goodness casts my actions as disingenuous. When I bought a new baby gift for the neighbor below me, a neighbor I almost never see or speak to, was I just purchasing goodness points in the package of cute onesies? What did she think when I knocked on her door and handed over my purchase? “Thank you,” or “Why now?” When I left after our short visit where I got the birth story and commented on the girl’s full head of hair and inaudible cries, why did I think, “I did it,” as if it had been a challenge?

When I let a signaling driver into my lane, I do it out of courtesy, but also to show I am good. When I make a charitable contribution, more attempts at goodness, even if I genuinely support and care about the cause. Goodness is my constant barometer.

In yesterday’s state of dysfunction when my brain begged to cocoon, to not speak or interact, to say no to the phone, it still offered me all these questions. It sat me down and stuck a pen in my hand. It told me, “Go ahead. Explore.” It told me that questions can matter as much as answers. And when I ran out or words, it took me to the movies to see “In the Shadow of the Moon,” a documentary that not only took me into space but took me back to a precious childhood moment that made me swell with nostalgia and the sensation of wonder.

I walked out of the theater glad I had gone alone, glad that no one else’s experience of the film could debate my own, glad that I could just be in that moment. And all the questions of goodness fell away, for I can only be who I am, like it or not. I will not walk on the moon as I once dreamed. I will not be remembered for goodness. But those who knew me may chew on my understated perseverance. Or maybe not.

And I will still try to be good, rating be damned.

9 comments:

kristen said...

'..And all the questions of goodness fell away, for I can only be who I am, like it or not.'

good or bad, this is why i heart you.

Delton said...

I think that being aware of one's own goodness should not diminish it by any means. By consciously recognizing the act, maybe you'll then associate the good feeling that comes from doing good, thereby seeking out other opportunities to perform other good acts.

In addition, this awareness may cause you to recognize when other people are also spreading goodness, which may allow you to acknowledge it to them. Bringing forward yet another chance to make someone feel good.

I hope this makes sense. Your eloquent words would have said it much clearer, but I needed to add this to the discussion.

jen said...

exactly what Kiki said.

me too.

QT said...

So good to read your writing again.

Practice makes perfect in many things, you know....

Rach said...

well expressed and echos all my thought too. I firmly believe that just by putting good out there, means it will come back to you tenfold.

Rrramone said...

Trust me my dear, you are good and you are bad and you are neither.

We all are. ;-)

Rrramone said...

If we WERE separated at birth, that would make us siblings, thus all my fantasies about you would be wildly inappropriate. Heh heh. :-)

Maddy said...

I try and be good, but I'm not very successful at it.
Happy Thanksgiving

Di Mackey said...

Hey, thank you for this. I'm pondering my goodness at the moment, measuring it against the competiveness and envy stuff I have going on ...

Nice to have found you out here.