I finished “How to Be Good” yesterday. I have to say it’s a pretty good book.
How to be good? Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody can just write an instruction manual on how to be good, and we can just all follow it and feel good about ourselves?
Many customer reviews on the book mention its lack of a conclusion or solution at the end as a downfall. But then, seriously, one couldn’t have possibly thought that there’s a merry answer to the question just by reading the book right? The book provides no answer, but what it does offer is the shocking reality and truth of how things really are. The things that we don’t like to admit to ourselves.
Humans are very different from other animals. On one hand, we have our natural instincts of survival; however, we have our brain that tells us what ought to be done, what is fair and just. Regardless of your faith/religion/beliefs, I think people believe in justice. And if one believes in justice, then one believes that some things are right and some things are wrong.
We all feel guilty when we do wrong things. We all like to think of ourselves as “generally” good because it makes us feel at ease. Because of the guilt, when we do something bad, we usually come up with a reason of some sort to justify ourselves, to lessen our guilt. When other people do bad things to us, we feel justice ought to be served, an eye has to pay for an eye. But when we do bad things to others, it’s because of the many circumstances that made us do it. We are really not that bad, we did it because of our unusual circumstances.
What’s the real intention of acquiring expensive clothing, accessories, decorations? Why do I need to drive a new car? Why do I keep up with the latest trends and try to make myself presentable? Surely, I don’t need to buy all the stuff I buy, do I? Why do I have a three bedroom house? Oh, I don’t need it, but it’s for investment.
Investment? Why do I need investment? To acquire more things? More expensive clothing, watches, TV, etc.?
Some things I acquire because of shallow reasons, what other people think, like buying good clothing, shoes, watches, etc.
Somethings I do because it does bring me satisfaction: music, art, and movies makes me happy.
But at what cost? Could I use the money for something else? Do I give to charity to lessen my guilt? To make myself feel better? Or do I really care about other people in this world? Is it a trick to make others believe that I have heart? Do I criticize other people, things, organizations because it will give them the feedback they need to grow, or do I criticize to make myself look better or smarter?
Am I more caring and willing to give to those who are lovable? But it is not the lovable and attractive that needs giving or is it? It’s easy to want save a kid that’s drowning in a pool that you can see. But it’s not so easy to want to save a starving kid who you can’t see or is it?
Selfish me says: I am not a saint, I just want to live the life I know how. But surely I am kidding right? Does one need to be a saint to do good?
Selfish me says: but it’s not my fault that the kids in some nations are starving! But then is it my accomplishment to be living in an advanced society where my worries are petty things like what to buy and what career track I want to pursue?
Am I sometimes goody-goody because of my vanity and pride of wanting to be better than those who aren’t goody goody?
These questions are not easy, but like life itself, there’s no easy answer or way out.
We should do the best we can, keep trying to balance between oneself and humanity at large.