December 27, 2005

What is "good"? Is "what is", good? I don't know the answer to that one. I can only say what I see, and see where it goes from there.

To start, I see several layers of interpretation placed upon the idea.

The first major interpretation would be that of a goal-oriented varying degrees of selfishness, as based upon varying degrees of self. That which is "good" is that which is found "good" for oneself. As the definition of "self" expands, that which is "good" gradually envelops other, isolated concepts of "good". It is at this second point that the desire to do "good" may actually interfere with the perceptions of others as to what actually is "good". Ironically, this second point is often jarred awake by some sudden insight, often but not always triggered by a sense of betrayal -- and in acting upon it, the person who has had the flash of insight may well react disproportionately to the stimulus: triggering either resistance or that same sense of betrayal in others in their sudden need to do "good".

As the concept of self continues to expand, the idea of good grows with it, but slowly takes on an additional dimension in that one begins to recognise that one's personal need to do "good" is actually counterproductive on several levels:
a) What might have been originally perceived as a "good" outcome for another might now seem short-sighted;
b) The previous need to do "good" in itself creates a crutch upon which those served may well become dependent;
c) The isolated "do-gooding" does not create any intrinsic will in another to similarly "do good".
Finally one realises -- with true empathy -- that the other must walk their own path. Develop their own definitions, discover their own moral compass. (This definition of "good" does imply some level of morality.) This is the stumbling point between so many teenagers and so many parents who wish them only good -- and would wish to protect them from the mistakes they themselves made.

A second major interpretation is process-oriented: an action is not counted "good" based upon its outcome, but upon its own nature. This view suggests that so long as the action itself is intrinsically well-intentioned, it must be good. In direct contrast to the utilitarian "ends justifying the means", this deontological approach can sometimes ignore end results, so long as they came about through "the best of intentions".

(I find that, while both approaches have serious flaws, each holds some merit -- having amended the traditional interpretations of the first one considerably to make it much more process-oriented: something of a balance between the value placed upon both process and ends. Yet I cannot be "goal-oriented" in the traditional sense: for how can I know where a path is to lead? and yet I do sense that the path exists.)

A third interpretation is "good" redefined as the degree of acceptance of one's place in the cosmic cycle: with appropriate re-definitions as that place is increasingly redefined and as one's personal awareness thereof grows more precise (see first interpretation). This interpretation defines the morality of good and evil simply as degree of understanding and acceptance. So long as actions taken are taken within that context, wu-wei: one cannot do evil. Evil, here, only results when one tries to force oneself against the Way.

A fourth, tied to the third, implies degrees of good again, in that one can struggle against the inhuman inertia of fate, one can accept and actively fulfill destiny (one degree of "good") -- or one can step aside, apart from the remembering of future and the prediction of past, and simply exist in the moment (a different degree of "good").

(While I have rewoven the ideas behind the first to take into account elements of the third and fourth -- I think not yet adequately. Wherever I am heading with this, it is an ongoing discovery.)

Would Christianity (as opposed to the teachings of Jesus -- which, interestingly, recognised the possibility of re-interpretation by challenging a previous re-interpretation; as indeed every religion holds unhidden at its core, in the potential for innovation, be it called oral Talmud or bid'a) be as pervasive as it is, had not the Church endorsed evangelism at any cost?

Could any religion, independent of a nationalistic alliance, become globally influential?

In this light, a slight re-interpretation of the teachings in the Gospels:

Use "I" as a generic "I" rather than an "I" specific to Jesus. What happens to the meaning of the content?

Thou art That.

'good' is to get out more
Quite probably true!
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