|Me, immorally caressing the "forbidden" med cart at work (1987)|
Something must be wrong with me. Not only am I not outraged by pretty much anything and everything that's wrong with society, I'm also not particularly inspired by what's right with it. I'm using the terms "wrong" and "right" loosely here, mostly because I'm not a big fan of society itself, just the individual human beings who comprise it. As someone who's always been attracted to what's considered immoral and degenerate, I don't really relate to society's mainstream. I'm much more moved by poetry than the random acts of kindness attracting the media's attention. Why is that?
I don't like the idea of anyone telling me how to live my life or how to be a better person. The notion that people can never be good or kind enough, that we always have to work on improving ourselves is a bunch of regret-engendering hooey. I'm already the person I want to be, always have been. I really can't think of anything worse than modeling myself according to someone else's principles. Self-righteousness has always rubbed me the wrong way. What I find particularly odd about most religions is how the prophets themselves were humble and self-effacing, whereas their disciples have taken themselves so seriously over time that killing in the name of God continues to be justified. Religion's problems are rooted in the concepts of God's kind mercy and forgiveness. Sounds good in theory, but in practice, not so much. The actual administration of God's kindness always seems to require a human intermediary who, more often than not, comes equipped with his or her own personal and repressive moral agenda. Since when do people need outside permission to be kind to themselves, accept themselves, and move on with life?
Last night, Spartacus and I watched "The Godfather." I'd never seen it in its entirety before, and the one scene which really stood out was when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) confided to his longtime girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) that, after a lifetime of resistance, he was now working for his mafioso father, Don Corleone (Marlon Brando). Unlike his brothers, Michael had shunned the family "business" in favor of a college education and military service. After his father was shot and seriously wounded by a rival mob family, Michael abandons his role as a civilian, eventually assuming leadership of the Corleones, all the while promising Kay that he'll make the family business legitimate within five years. Fully aware of the violent, criminal nature of Michael's new undertaking, Kay protests:
"But you're not like him, Michael. I thought you weren't going to become a man like your father. That's what you told me."
The clarity of Michael's response is chilling. "My father's no different than any other powerful man, any man who's responsible for other people, like a senator or president."
Shaking her head, Kay condescends, "Do you know how naïve you sound?"
Michael barely squeezes in "Why?" as Kay explains matter-of-factly, "Senators and presidents don't have men killed!"
Indeed, Kay, who's being naïve? As Lao-tzu once queried, "What is a bad man but a good man's teacher?" How is a president who wages war any different from a mob boss? Yet, society is pretty darn selective in making such distinctions, e.g. our current wars on terror and drugs. Isn't war a form of terror? So, we should fight terror with terror? Nothing about that reasoning makes sense to me, but by God, we're gonna prove we're the good guys if it means wiping out every last one of ya!
Other than rendering a medical opinion in the patient care setting, I'm not too keen on giving or taking personal advice. I read a commencement speech this morning in which the author urged new college graduates to focus on becoming kinder and more loving, by "taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves." Although I totally get where he's coming from and agree with the article's basic premise, I think this is terrible piece of advice. Why? Well, for starters, it's virtually impossible to act selflessly when you take yourself seriously. Also, the worst kind of kindness is that which comes from overthinking and moralizing it. It's unnatural and doesn't come from the heart. There's usually an element of expectation or reciprocation involved, as well as a desire for recognition, especially in those who do take themselves seriously. Finally, I don't even see how kindness itself is a moral issue; in fact, you could say that morals arise from a lack of goodness or kindness. I agree with Lao-tzu: "Perfect kindness acts without thinking of kindness."
|Going with the flow, but not floating the mainstream, 1982|
I'm not knocking kindness, just the way we value it as something otherworldly and extraordinary. True kindness is effortless and doesn't require any forethought. It's often overlooked. Thinking about kindness relegates acting kindly to the future, which seems like a waste of right now. Being kind happens naturally when people accept themselves as individual expressions of the universe, going with the flow, instead of floating the mainstream. All human beings are capable of it, without a third party assist.
See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.