From June 1, 2010, to June 1, 2011, I engaged in one allegedly simple, but as it turned out, horribly difficult task: To answer the question “What is goodness?” On June 1, 2011, I posted my First Theory of Goodness, which was the best answer I could devise by that date. And now I’ve done something that may be even more insane than my original question, I’ve set myself with the task of actually <gulp> being good. Since I did well with a deadline before, I’ve set myself the task of doing this for another 365 days, from Aug. 1, 2011, to Aug. 1, 2012.
What’s your take on this? What should I do? Got any helpful hints? Honestly, I’ll need all the help I can get.
What is goodness? This is a great question because it stimulates us, or at least me, to think about how I have lived my life and, perhaps more inportantly, how I want to live the rest of my life.
My first thought is that it is to act for the benefit of others without concern or regard for my own wishes and desires.
And there must be various levels of goodness. Benefiting someone I care about is likely not as great a good as acting to benefit a total stranger, which in turn is not as great a deed as benefiting someone I don’t like. Furthermore, if I sacrifice something that is of little value to me, such as a few hours of down time, that would seem to me to be not as great a good as risking something I hold in great value, such as my life.
However, goodness, I believe, is something that can be achieved a number of times per day-treating others with kindness, holding good thoughts, giving blessings to those we don’t like.
All that being said, I’m not sure I’ve answered the question. I’ll have to give it more thought. Thanks for asking.
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I would define goodness, right off the top of my head, as doing that which is for the better good of all concerned.
That was great Charles…..especially the part about if it is fo rsomeone I love vs someone i dislike……or if it costs me more or less……….I was kind to someone I thought I didn’t like and now we have become wonderful friends……..
The question is mostly answered in terms of behaviour in relation to the surrounding world: being good to another person, to animals, to nature.
However, in order to be good to the surrounding world, you first have to be good to yourself. Typically, this is interpreted as caring for yourself in a physical or mental sense: feeding yourself well, treating yourself on rest or on sport or vacation or music or whatever.
These perspectives are all very human, also in the sense that they do not leave our human level, one could say, they are horizontal.
If one could, for once, imagine God’s point of view, being good would mean to fulfill the one, central, and most important act, God wants mankind to do: remember him, by prayer, by meditation, by attitude. Being good in a vertical way. Concentration on God leaves by definition little, if no, room in the soul for other than god, as would evil be. Thus, being good in this sense, would, depending on the level of constant concentration, result in being good in the already above described, more horizontal ways.
I think the problem I have with this is the presumption of, for lack of a better phrase, goodness only existing as the result of external forces – goodness because a parent tells us to, goodness because it is expected of us (perhaps for some reward or lack of punishment). What that would mean is that we are incapable of doing good, of being good, of expressing goodness, without that external pressure. I think an external focus can provide a trigger, an impetus, to goodness, but not that it’s the ONLY trigger/impetus.
I have to add this to my above comment: God created mankind because he wanted to be known. Now, this means on the part of mankind: remembrance and knowledge. Remembrance can only be perfect on the basis of knowledge. ( how can you remember someone you do not know?) Knowledge can only be attained by constant remembrance, becoming a mirror of the One remembered.
Thanks for the interesting comments! I think I understand what you’re saying. Please correct me if I’ve got it wrong.
My first thoughts are: I wonder if goodness can only exist within God’s sight, which I think is what you meant. Can we only be good if we are constantly concentrating on God? Are atheists doomed to evil? In other words, I wonder if there’s a secular equivalent to what you’re saying here about God. What if we took the concept of a divine entity out of the situation and instead concentrated/remembered goodness?