Saturday, December 8, 2012

Goodness, Deconstructed (As Good As It Gets)

     Last night, Spartacus and I attended a Christmas party thrown by the gastroenterology group I work with. Thanks to Atlanta's impossible traffic situation, we arrived an hour and fifteen minutes late to the feast already in progress, both of us starving after our grueling pre-party workouts. Had either of us anticipated that treacherous bottleneck on I-20 eastbound, I would've brought a few snacks for the road. Yeah, I get a little bitchy when I'm hungry. Relieved that we'd finally made it there after our harrowing backroad detour, we loaded up our plates, grabbed a glass of wine, and engaged in pleasant chatter with the folks sitting at our table. I couldn't help but notice that we all clean up very nicely. At work, we spend our days running around in non-descript, formless scrubs, so when I see colleagues dressed in their street clothes, it sometimes takes me a moment to recognize them. It was great seeing everyone so happy and relaxed. Women of all ages were wearing updos and party dresses and sequined sleeveless tops, some on the conservative side, some downright sexy, but they all shared one thing in common: a burning desire to shake their booties on the dance floor.  Needless to say, the air of dance-ticipation was pretty thick.
     As the dinner plates were cleared away, the DJ eased from mealtime muzak into disco, dance rock and good old country, the urgent question on everyone's minds being "Who's going to get up and boogie first?" Glancing about the room, I could see boyfriends and husbands--including my own--bracing themselves, hoping to ward off their respective dancing queens' attempts to drag them from the security of their chairs into the encroaching disco inferno. I assumed the hot young chicks in stilettos and satin mini dresses, priming themselves with shots of Cuervo over by the bar, would be the ones to get this party started. I'd been hearing legendary tales of their dancing prowess for the past several weeks, so I thought they were a safe bet. Surprisingly, and somewhat endearingly, the first rug-cutter was a young newlywed guy. Obviously obliviated and observedly oblivious, he wielded his Bud Light like a homing beacon, solitarily tripping the light fantastic for a few moments before being joined by his laughing bride. Their spontaneity and uncensored delight in one another set the tone for the evening. It wasn't long before a decent-sized--albeit mostly female--crowd accumulated, expertly kicking out The Electric Slide in unison. Hell, I even got out there and busted out a few of my trademark awkward-white-girl moves to Baby's Got Back, and I didn't even have to twist Spartacus's arm to slow dance with me during "Unchained Melody."
     We left shortly before the party ended, our post-prandial sleepiness a welcome promise of sweet, uninterrupted sleep to come. As we made the rounds, saying our goodbyes and thank yous, one of the nurses I work with pointed out an attractive young woman who was clearly enjoying herself on the dance floor. "See that girl? Her mama's one of our co-workers, and she's a real upright holy roller. She's gotta be cringing, watching her daughter dance like that!" The woman looked to be in her mid to late 20s. She was dressed modestly in a long-sleeved white sweater, slim black pants, and open-toed pumps, and although she was swaying energetically to the beat of the music, she certainly didn't appear to be trying to draw attention to herself. She was only having fun. "Good for her for getting out there and dancing!," I replied, supposing aloud that Mama probably believes Jesus didn't dance or drink wine, and then adding, "Morality is what happens when goodness has failed." My friend nodded, "Uh-huh," in agreement, but the perplexity furrowing her brow conveyed an ascending note of misapprehension. "How can goodness fail?"
     Perhaps the better question is what's so good about goodness? And, where do our ideas about goodness come from? From the moment we're born, our goodness is vigorously reinforced. Good boys don't cry. Good girls sit with their knees together.  Good babies sleep through the night; after all, children are best seen, but not heard. Are babies even capable of being good or bad? The easy answer is "no," but what if babies are true goodness personified? If morality is the by-product of faulty goodness, then what came before goodness, true or otherwise? Goodness, it seems, stems from desire. Newborns aren't desirous of attention when they cry, they're simply reacting to hunger or discomfort. They're just being. Through ongoing behavioral conditioning and reinforcement, babies eventually learn that certain cries will elicit predictable responses from their parents, heralding the genesis of self-awareness from which all goodness emanates. Because goodness seeks approval, it is never fully satisfied. Being somewhat of a micromanager, goodness wants what's right, but doesn't trust others to do the right thing. So, maybe goodness is what happens when we cease to be, when life's mysterious, marvelous flow is ignored in favor of duty, expectation, and control. Goodness, deconstructed, doesn't sound so good after all. Still, we're in love with the idea that true goodness exists, and that goodness is good.
     Much like the young woman dancing last night, true goodness doesn't call attention to itself. It just does its own thing. As I stood there watching her, I noticed another one of the nurses I work with, a preacher's wife, dancing alongside her. Aside from being gorgeous and bubbly, Crystal has a wicked sense of humor and a really firm grip on acceptance: she's one of the least judgmental people I've ever met. She's a genuine "live and let live" kind of gal, someone who doesn't pretend to holiness or piety. It was fun seeing the two of them getting their groove on. There's something so primal and spontaneous and human about dancing...even when it's bad, it's still pretty darn good. Goodness like that can't be improved upon. It's as good as it gets.

     Fast forward to 2:19 to see me, shakin' my groove thang...
     

26 comments:

  1. Great post, Kris. I think you hit the nail on the head. The people I call "good" don't make rules for others to live by; they like seeing people happy and free.

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    1. Thanks, Marty! I feel the same way you do about good people.

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  2. I like your argument between good and bad. So many things in this life are defined before our mind's are even developed enough to determine which something is on our own. This sounds eerily reminiscent of a Christmas party held at Sean's house a couple of years. Things were gyratingly fun on the dance floor there, as well. Glad you two had fun, and I'm sure you looked smoking hot!! :)

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    1. Emily, it's those weird accidental moments that seem to house life's essence and meaning. I can only imagine how much fun Sean's party was!!!

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  3. I love this post. You're so right, though if a girl is wearing a skirt, I think sitting with their knees together is a good idea. ;) I think true goodness is out there somewhere but it's not what so many believe it to be. It's be morphed into so many things by so many 'good' people who want to keep 'bad' behavior under control. Ugh.

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    1. It all seems to run together after awhile, doesn't it? I agree about true goodness; I see it in people who are able to maintain their own individual beliefs while remaining accepting of others.

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  4. I just love to dance whenever I go out somewhere. At first I use to wait until others baptized the dance-floor then I would follow but nowadays I have nothing to lose, it doesn't really matter if I am the first one to shake the butt. Who cares anyway?
    It's amazing how people change once they hit the dance floor though, it's as if all of a sudden some invisible cord is broken and freedom has been released. Then it's back to work with that stiff upper lip again.

    I think we are all raised with a sense of what is good and bad, but as we grow older we define it in a way that suits us, to a certain point. We can make goodness fit many things that it is not. My idea of goodness may not by yours and vice-versa.

    I'm gonna come back later to watch the video. Nice post Helena.

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    1. People really do change when they hit the dance floor, don't they? All those insecurities and hang ups temporarily melt away in the spirit of fun and camaraderie; that's the good stuff. Losing ourselves in the moment seems to bring out the best in all of us.

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  5. I feel like "good" is also generous, kind and accepting. I like rooting for people versus judging them, on or off the dance floor :) ps- Nice moves!!!

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    1. Gina, I prefer rooting for people, too. Even if I don't necessarily share their views, acceptance always feels better than judging. Glad you liked the video!

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  6. What a wonderful post. You really made me think about what goodness actually means.

    I really have to go out and dance sometime soon, I haven't done that in a while. :)

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post, Kleopatra...thanks for stopping by. And, by all means, get out there and dance!

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  7. In the end, I cannot dance. Slow dance yes, headbang yes, but beyond that, nope. Having said that, I enjoy those kind of things, where I can watch those that do know how to dance, and enjoy the atmosphere.

    On another note, you need to get a smart phone that has traffic info on it. I learned that about Atlanta a VERY long time ago, and Dallas.... Ugh....

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    1. Dan, I can totally see you headbanging! :-D I had to make myself get up and dance at the party I wrote about, and I'm glad I did. I had such a blast, even though I have no idea what I'm doing when I'm out there, trying to dance. You're right about the smartphone...the car GPS just doesn't cut it here in ATL.

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  8. Aren't people interesting? :) Love your turn of phrase 'dance-ticipation'! 'Good' is such a generic term which can mean so many things to so many people, much like the word 'nice'. Both are words your editor would weed out of your manuscript! True goodness is a treat to see and experience, but to pin it down and translate it into terms we can connect on? A difficult proposition...

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    1. The meaning of true goodness certainly is elusive, isn't it? But, we all know it when we see it. Maybe true goodness, if it exists, is beyond words.

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  9. It sounds like an interesting night. I love your take on dancing to the song Baby's Got Back.... awkward-white-girl moves...love it!!

    Goodness is simply a word to me. I try very hard not to judge or define anyone by my own self-imposed standards. It makes life so much easier.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jackie! I agree whole-heartedly with what you said about not judging others by ones' self-imposed standards. I think that demonstrates integrity.

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  10. The question of man's true nature has always fascinated me. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Baby Got Back...I love that song! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Thanks for another great post.

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  11. a beautiful insight with a casual cozy beginning and a gorgeous end.
    "maybe goodness is what happens when we cease to be, when life's mysterious, marvelous flow is ignored in favor of duty, expectation, and control. " can't agree more. yes, "as good as it gets"!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic, Yunyi...it's always good to hear from you!

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  12. Hi Kris. Christmas parties are fun! Slow dancing to “Unchained Melody,” that’s a good one (points to Spartaucs for not having to be coaxed!). You are so right about goodness. “Because goodness seeks approval, it is never fully satisfied” is very aptly put. Totally agree. Love the video, you can really shake it mama!! Where ever did you get that hat? It’s hysterical!! :) The others in the video were great too, especially that singer.

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    1. Glad you liked the post and video, Madilyn. My sister loaned me the hat and the leotard. The singer is my son from another mother, and he is now the lead singer for my sons' band, BearKnuckle. Everyone else in the video was a physician.

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  13. An analysis of goodness - definitely a 'good' food for thought, and your post made a 'good' read, Helena :-). "Morality is what happens when goodness has failed" - I find that a brilliant utterance.

    The invisible hands of society are never tired of trying to groom/mold (and inhibit) you, and however good you may try to be, expectations keep rising. Its always more fulfilling to develop YOUR OWN value system and be a better YOU rather than trying to please the world.

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    1. I completely agree, Antara. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece.

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