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I’ve been exploring new resources on goodness, and just discovered an amazing film called Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate, which was broadcast by PBS in April. I’ve only had time to watch one 23-minute clip from the from the film, but that one clip stunned me.
Called the Language of Anger, the clip tells the story of author Terri Jentz, who suffered a horrific assault when she was 19, and then spent the rest of her life dealing with it. Her journey provides perspective on good, evil, justice and forgiveness, whether or not some acts should be deemed unforgivable, and whether forgiveness can be given too easily.
I can’t find a direct link to the clip, but you can go to the film’s homepage, scroll down and click on the first clip on the left, which is headlined, “Language of Anger.” I don’t want to say too much about this clip until you’ve seen it, but I’d love to discuss the clip once you have.
I’m back. Did ya’ miss me? I’ve been away from this blog for two months, and I wish I could say that I was in hot pursuit of goodness, but in fact, I was working overtime to finish a couple of money-making projects. But deadlines have finally been met, and I’ve got time to breathe and pursue what may be my most important project of all: Understanding goodness. Stay tuned. More to come soon.
Mark Thompson on Time’s Battleground blog has a nice blurb up today about my Miller-McCune story on moral injury. I think the issue of moral injury needs to be discussed far more than it is today, so I’m pleased to see that my little piece is bringing some attention to this kind of trauma.
My story about moral injury is finally out in Miller-McCune magazine. This is one of several articles to come out of my work on the Goodness Project.
I did a fantastic job following the Golden Rule yesterday, largely because the only people I saw were my eightysomething mother and the twentysomething barista at the coffee bar. And, yes, I was able to be nice to both of them. Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be this easy the rest of the year.
Also, thanks to everyone for the great conversation about the meaning of the Golden Rule. (Commentators noted: If the Golden Rule means doing unto others as you want to be done unto, then don’t we run the risk of ignoring other people’s wishes? How the heck do you know if what you want is what someone else wants? We have to take care of ourselves first before we can be there for other people. Stress can undermine our effort to be good, and yes, we need to reframe our irritations and angers into positive statements to avoid strangling each other. )
But the topic for today is trust — that is, trust and the Golden Rule. How can I treat others as nicely as I want to be treated if I fear that they are going to stab me in the neck — either literally or metaphorically — while I’m standing around being pleasant to them?
Uh oh. What have I gotten myself into? How does a soul be good? The best I can think of right now is to start simple. Let’s start with The Golden Rule: I shall treat others as I want to be treated. Why do I get the uneasy feeling that this is going to be REALLY hard? Oh, maybe, it’s because I’m prone to loosing my temper, judging others, and then there’s that all-time favorite of mine called arrogance.
So, here we are at Day 1 where I shall attempt to treat everyone I meet as I would want to be treated. So far so good! Of course, it’s early, and I haven’t actually seen anyone yet today.
I spent 365 days attempting to answer the question: What is goodness? Since I completed that quest on June 1, I’ve been bumbling around trying to figure out what to do next. My year-long journey was wonderful. Challenging, fun, intellectually exciting, and in the end, it did enable me to form my first theory of goodness. Looking back, I think it’s rather grandiose to call that a theory; it’s actually more of a hunch of mine — that goodness is a skill. But I did do what I set out to do, and for that, I am pleased.
But my teeth itch. Something’s not quite right here.
The August issue of The Progressive Magazine is out now, and it includes my essay, “Was My Father Evil?” My essay is not available online, so go forth and purchase an old-fashioned hard copy of the thing. Tell them Diane sent you. Meanwhile, their website does have an interesting excerpt from an interview with writer and war correspondent Chris Hedges.
This blog doesn’t usually keep track of news, but I did want to note that Psychology Professor Marc Hauser has resigned from Harvard. Hauser is the morality researcher who has been accused of scientific misconduct, and I covered the investigation in earlier posts. The New York Times discusses some of the pros and cons of Harvard’s investigation into Hauser and notes that the university still hasn’t released its results. AAAS Science Insider gives a good brief overview of Hauser’s importance and the investigation and links to Hauser’s resignation letter.
I can’t judge whether or not Hauser really is a morality researcher who forgot to apply ethics to his own work, or whether or not Harvard did right by him, although some of Harvard’s actions do appear, on the surface, to be unfair. But I can judge his resignation letter. As someone who has worked in communications and ghostwritten these kinds of statements for others, all I can say is that the letter reads as if it were written by someone who has: (a) been told by lawyers to keep quiet about the real issue, or (b) did something wrong and knows it and is resigning because he has to, or (c) reached a financial settlement with his employer, a settlement that requires him to remain silent.
I’ve spent the past year seeking to understand the true heart of good human beings. I’ve asked everybody I could to answer the question: What is goodness? Imagine my surprise when I interviewed MacArthur Fellow Jonathan Shay last week and discovered that goodness may have an aspect I never considered before. A good person, in fact, may be nothing more than a lucky person.
Simon Baron-Cohen argues that evil should be defined as the absence of empathy. In his new book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, the University of Cambridge professor of developmental psychology proposes replacing the “unscientific term ‘evil’ with the scientific term ’empathy.” New York Times reviewer Katherine Bouton explains:
Google Engineering Director Damon Horowitz tackles the idea of using numbers and science to make ethical decisions and comes up with a delightfully different answer than Sam Harris did in The Moral Landscape. Watching Horowitz’ TED talk, I’m energized and hopeful, which is a far different reaction than the one I had when reading Harris’ book.
So, just when I decide to take a breather from all this goodness work, I stumble into some fascinating items online that must be shared. Stay tuned!