A Question of Inherent Goodness

I have always believed in the inherent goodness of most people. My whole life, I’ve held to the belief that, as Luke Skywalker said in “Return of the Jedi” regarding his father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, “There’s still good in him. I can feel it.” At the end of the movie–and at the time, we thought, the story–we discovered that Luke was right. Vader not only saved his son’s life at the end but in the process “brought balance to the Force” as had been prophesied many, many years before. This idea? Of someone as evil as Darth Vader being inherently good? It is a comforting one.

I’m far from naive on this point, guys. I’ve seen too much to believe that all people are inherently good (hence my use of the term “most” in my opening sentence). They’re not. Jerry Sandusky? Not. Adolf Hitler? Definitely not. Did I just lump a child molester and a genocidal maniac in to the same sentence? Yes, I did. In my mind one is just as sick, twisted and f*cked up as the other and that’s not because I went to Penn State and am disgusted by what he–Sandusky–and his co-conspirators have done to the reputation of my beloved Alma Mater.

Quite simply? I believe and will always believe that evil exists. It can be incarnated in any number of ways. Whether you believe that evil is a tangible commodity, evident in people like the aforementioned ones like I do, or you believe that it is an abstract concept that we use to explain the in-explainable–atrocities committed that defy logical explanation (see: Sandy Hook, etc.)–is irrelevant. In our world on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? Bad people exist. And bad people do bad things. Which brings me back to the reason that I started writing this blog entry in the first place.

I have always believed and I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. Let me repeat that: I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. It’s part of who I am as a person. But some days? Believing is hard. Damn hard. Take today. Today, I discovered that someone that I trusted was funneling information to someone else in an attempt to… what? Implicate me? Get back at me? Did said funneler think that he/she was doing the right thing? Probably. Is he/she evil? No. He/she is no more evil than I am. Am I being intentionally vague? Yes, and that’s the extent of what I’m going to say err, write on the matter.

The thing is? This is not the first time this has happened. It has happened before. The names and faces have changed over time but the mentality, apparently, still exists. Perhaps it is a product of the institution, whatever that institution may be and not its individual personalities. Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just a sad coincidence. Whatever it is, for lack of a better explanation, it is. I don’t always question the way things are, guys. I know, shocking, huh? But sometimes, it is safer to just keep my head down and be that living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face that you all know and… I hope… love to some extent. But as some reading this may know and some may not, I’ve got a bit of a history with this kind of a situation.

It goes all the way back to my childhood. Back then, I was not a living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I was a depressive, pear-shaped kid who wore a lot of black and constantly sought acceptance from his peers. I eventually found it, but it took me the better part of 15… almost 16 years to do so and it didn’t happen overnight. Oh hell no. It was a rigorous process. But by the time I graduated high school and started my Freshman year at Penn State Abington (known then as “Penn State Ogontz,” and thereafter for a short time as “Penn State Abington-Ogontz” or “Ab-Oz” as we endearingly referred to it) that sad and sordid history? It was a distant memory. I was older, wiser, slimmer and more mature. I was, for the most part, happy. But I never forgot, guys. No way. Never.

Am I bitter? No. I haven’t been bitter in a couple of decades. If anything, I laugh about it now, mainly with my wife and others who suffered through similar situations to mine growing up. But… and here’s the rub… if this kind of thing has happened before, is happening now and will, likely, happen again if I remain in the same situation that I am currently in, why “hold fast” as my screensaver on both my computer at home and at work proclaims? Why continue to believe in the inherent goodness of most people if, per not just my own, personal history’s example but the example of history in general demonstrates that people are not? Why not forcibly remove myself from the situation before things get worse?

All are good questions. Valid ones. Questions that require a little pondering and, it seems, a blog entry. I think that a part of the reason why is this: I ‘kinda get off on it, a little. Yeah, I went there. Don’t avert your eyes and scream that you’re blind because the majority of you reading this have likely never seen me in person or haven’t seen me in anything other than a thumbnail in a long, long time and are unequipped to judge.

I do, though. I get off on being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. All of you people that quote “oppressed me” unquote back in the day? Guess what? A part of me enjoyed it. Do you know or can you guess why? The answer is pretty simple and it can be summed up in one word: Attention. When you were doing it, you were paying attention to me and I longed for that. I let it go on for as long as I did because I liked the attention that I was accruing. When I grew up, though, and realized that conceding to being a proverbial punching bag was unhealthy? I moved passed it. Put it in my proverbial rear view mirror. Finis. 

The same is somewhat true, now, but only the part about being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. Trust me. The proverbial punching bag thing? Yeah. I don’t do that anymore. I punch back. Ask the funneler and the funnel-ee if you don’t believe me. But only if you can ring their names out of my cold, dead hands…

Um… yeah. Okay. 

Of course, if this blog entry is any indication, I’m apparently still very good at the whole garnering attention thing. But really, guys? Am I? I average about 20-25 hits per blog entry, and that’s only since I moved “Random Musings” from Google Blogger to WordPress a few months ago. Before that, I was lucky if I got 20 hits per blog entry (on average). I’ve had a few highs–“Dora the Explorer – A J. J. Abrams Film”–and a few lows–“Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish”–but for the most part? My little blog is a virtual non-entity in the greater blogosphere.

If I did this solely for attention I would have stopped a long time ago. Still, though, I toil onward, and have been toiling onward for almost four years now. No. I don’t maintain “Random Musings” for attention. I do it because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy writing. Some people play sports, jog, play “World of Warcraft” or otherwise. I write. And writing, for me, is another extension of who I am. Turn away if you desire to. I won’t hold it against you.

So that’s one reason why. Kind of a gross one, I know. I promise I’ll never reference “getting off” again. How about another reason? Okie-dokie, then. Another reason why I continue to believe in the inherent goodness of others despite the fact that some days, believing is hard. Because hidden within the nastiness that graces the static page of every news site from CNN to Fox News, to MSNBC to C-SPAN is proof.

I understand the media. I understand that sh*t sells. I’ve seen “The Running Man” a dozen or so times. And while I disagree wholeheartedly with profiting from other people’s misfortune and turning dictators in to modern day, dime store paperback anti-heroes, I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. You’ve got to feed your families ‘same as I do. But…

But look no further than the teacher that hid her students from the Sandy Hook shooter a little over a month ago and lost her life because of it. Or the bus driver that ended up dying because he tried to stop a gunman from kidnapping a student. Or the pilot that safely landed his plane in the Hudson River a few years ago and saved over a hundred lives. Or “Gabby” Giffords. Or the woman… hell, the women that defy the traditional, submissive roles forced upon them by their respective societies.

See what I mean? For every Jerry Sandusky there’s a Malala Yousafzai. For every Adolf Hitler there’s a “Kid President.” For every bad person doing bad things there’s a good person showing the world that despite how horrific things can get, there remains hope. For society. For us. I’m not going to lie: Humanity is pretty far gone presently. If you believe otherwise that’s your prerogative but I’m sorry: I require your proof. Me, personally? I remain a believer in the inherent goodness in most men and women because of the Gabbys, the Malalas and the “Kid Presidents.” For me? As long as one true hero or heroine exists in the midst of the political strong men, women and profiteers that choke the life from this world there is hope. So I’ll never stop believing. Until the day rolls around that I watch or read the news and see nothing but negativity I’ll never stop. That said…

Somewhere, on another side of the proverbial wormhole of existence Luke Skywalker just informed the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi that “there’s still good in [Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader]. I know it.” We all know how that story ends. Vader throws the Emperor over the railing and in to the abysmal heart of the second Death Star and he and his son have a touching, last moment together. Cue me crying (yes, when I first saw it I cried), the funeral pyre and the Ewoks, dancing to the “Yub Yub” song. But what about this story? Ours? How will it end? Am I correct in my assessment that at its core, most human souls retain some semblance of good despite how some have been corrupted by everything from the media to the desire to be accepted by their peers? Am I just as naive at 37 as I was at 13? Only time will tell, I guess. But as for right now? I believe what I believe. Despite funnelers and funnel-ees, I still believe it, and will continue to do so…

Long after these credits have rolled. Finis. 

Written and Directed by Frank Marsh.

🙂

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3 thoughts on “A Question of Inherent Goodness

  1. “pear shaped” “seeking acceptance from peers”

    These are not evil or good statements in and of themselves, its all in context that they become positive or negative. Its just too bad that we as humans can’t get past the idea of rendering everything down in some stupid attempt to make sense of it. Nothing is “GOOD” and nothing is “EVIL”. These concepts are merely the lazy human mind attempting to make sense of a world we awaken to find ourselves in and pressed for time ( another unrealistic concept ) we take the shortest route to process all that we come in contact with to avoid the pain or steal the pleasure, that are both fleeting and really just more arbitrary misconceptions of our experiencing life.

    To label Hitler or Sandusky evil is shortsighted, an attempt to make sense of what they did
    somehow fit into our sense of what we wouldn’t do given the chance. There’s the rub because (except for some un foreseen working of the universe) you can’t live another’s life.
    If Hitler won the war your world would not be this one, if Sandusky was never caught, your concern for the social perception of your alma mater would be moot ( at least you could hold your head up when you said you attended.. but then why hold your head in shame now, you
    didn’t commit the acts, and if you ever had any respect for Sandusky, it wasn’t respect for
    his negative behaviour it was for his achievements….. which when you pull back, maybe just as wrong headed…. they were HIS achievements! maybe remarkable but certainly none effect or consequence or good reasoning, of you having spent some of your time there… )

    I have news for you this world is only black and white, good or evil, in the most simplest of
    minds and “inherent goodnesses” is just a jar into which one can spend way too much time
    tossing or removing a multitude of players, only to realize way too late, there never was a jar in the first place.

    • First off, Steven I, thank you for your comment. While I can see your point regarding my “pear shaped” comment I’m not sure how it applies to “seeking acceptance from peers.” Neither were meant as anything other than personal points of reference but you are correct, a description like “pear shaped” is a contextual one, i.e. if I say that a pear is “pear shaped,” it implies no negative connotation. But to call an overweight child “pear shaped?” It does.

      You say that “nothing is ‘GOOD’ and nothing is ‘EVIL.’ These concepts are merely the lazy human mind attempting to make sense of a world we awaken to find ourselves in.” This is a common argument and a matter of perception. Your perception of the human mind as “lazy” is not mine, nor do I believe that categorizing, for example, a kiss as “good” and a punch as “evil” is laziness. The attempt to categorize, nay to organize is an inherently human one and it is not a sign of a lazy mind, but an advanced one. Name me one other species that does that to the extent that we humans do and I’ll concede the point. But check your facts: The evidence is against you.

      Furthermore, you say that “to label Hitler or Sandusky evil is shortsighted,” and your defense of that point is, I’m sorry to say, a bit jumbled. I think you’re referring to perception, again. Please, correct me if I’m wrong. I will concede that you are correct: Had Hitler “won the war” my perception of him would be different. Had Sandusky never been caught my perception him would be different, as well. But Hitler lost and Sandusky was caught. Those two eventualities/outcomes dictate perception which dictates categorization which causes me to label both as “evil” and not “good.” I don’t see that as shortsighted. Far from it: It is the result of a careful analysis of the facts, leading too a conclusion. But again, you are entitled to your opinion.

      In conclusion, you close by saying that “this world is only black and white, good or evil, in the most simplest of minds.” Are you then saying that the majority of humanity is simple-minded? Because the majority of the world believes in both, Steven I. Every spirituality that I’ve ever studied entertains some conception of both. I guess the question that I would pose to you, and the question that I would pose to other, non-simple minded people like yourself (if that is what you were inferring) is this: What is your alternative? To not categorize… to entertain a world view in which dictators and child molesters stand side-by-side, on equal ground with people like Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa? If anything, that seems “lazy” to me.

      End retort. Thank you, again, for your comment. I look forward to your response. Have a great day! F.

      • I understand how you used those personal points of reference, i was attempting to suggest that “pointing out an overweight child …pear shaped” while implying a negative connotation, is not necessarily evil or even bad, what is bad is that a person is made to feel “not right”, that standards must be established and then everything is measured against those, and those outside the standard are made to feel “unnatural” “awkward” “less than” or “unacceptable” and yet are not by some natural process removed from the mix, but made to endure their life ( a life as valuable as any other ) always reminded in some small way they are less than perfect. (this is madness)
        This whole system is based on competition, animal competition, but it is un-natural because in nature an animal does not question, ponder, stew over, its place in nature, it either is “perfect” or it doesn’t survive. It is either attracted or strong enough to procreate ( even though it probably has no understanding of why its doing what its doing or cares…. the most basic urges acted upon, and on to the next thing, the ultimate instant gratification, where in it has no knowledge of what the gratification is! )

        “Inherent goodness” would not allow for such a mix. Inherent goodness would use the strengths of the superior to protect the weaker, inherent goodness would abolish competition at best or teach a completely different understanding of the concepts of “less or more” while striving onward/forward!

        Inherent goodness wouldn’t just play lip service to “no one left behind”, there would be no “behind”.

        Oddly this was initially the goal of the Nazi, except it all fell apart because while maintaining the lofty goals
        of moving forward, re building, it maintained the old world bias of “one race is better than another” and “the weak should be removed for the sake of the strong”. Western thinking is essentially the same, the only difference is the forms of
        removing the “unquestionables” are more subtle….. send them to war, make them work like dogs, use them to experiment on : new drugs, new technologies, new products

        You claim not to have a lazy mind (and i’m not attempting to insult but to point something out) ie you believe that categorizing “a kiss as good” and “a punch as evil” is not a sign of laziness, yet both those examples are turned
        on their heads when “punching is made into a professional sport” and “the kiss of death is imparted to the soon to disappear violently” The idea that we twist things around and accept into the social stream dualistic expressions
        to me is a firm sign of laziness. Its also apart of the power struggle of strong over weak, wherein you confuse
        the language for the simple act of ” getting it over someone” , used by the less strong, or the more resourceful
        to somehow “one up” those in power, or those you wish to take advantage of.( slang is a prim example of this…. so is poetry and so is song albeit some song, most is now just garbage….) these are all lazy methods of thinking (even though a lot of human energy is put into them) because once in place you no longer have to think for your self, its all been decided for you.

        Consider religion, its merely another really really really lazy form of lazy thinking. Someone else comes up with all
        the answers and you are typically spoon fed it all, from cradle to grave, never using the very singular gift that nature
        has endowed, that being a MIND OF YOUR OWN, A THINKING SELF AWARE THINKING BRAIN.

        And while the attempting to categorize/organize has some merit and indeed is the act of a thinking mind, the unquestioning acceptance of someone else’s solution or line of reason is not.

        To label somebody simply EVIL or GOOD does little to advance the workings of a thinking brain, it merely asks for
        conformity. Even if you disagree with the particular label and take the opposing side, someone else has established the
        choices to which you if you do, are lining up with.

        I haven’t confirmed it, but yes i am saying the majority of humanity are simple minded! It is apart of our original design, a vestigial structure, call it “SAFE THINKING” or “SHORT TERM MIND NUMBING SO WE CAN DEAL WITH THE IMMEDIATE NEXT THING” In short its just so much easier when faced with the complexity of life, to let someone else do the thinking, the leading, the exploring, the investigating, the making the hard choices etc etc.

        ( I also suspect without getting too paranoid, or conspiratory, that those who recognized this long long ago are the very ones who take full advantage of this situation, sometimes entirely for their own self interest and occasionally in some presumed humanist way for the betterment of larger groups of this species)

        You sited two names Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa, i will take the entirely opposite point of view and say one was a criminal and the other a self deluded maniacal religious nut bag.( and you would be right if you say that’s only my opinion) But when you apply those or your monikers appropriately and step back you can very easily see that all those who follow and applaud/or deride their actions are merely “sheeple”.

        This too is a vestigial thinking method, when we recognize all our weaknesses, we look to more powerful people hoping against hope that they are at least more powerful than us, otherwise who can rely upon in times of trouble. The truly weak minded amongst us rely on the fantasy of religion to sustain, uphold and grant us some peace of mind that no matter how poorly we handle our lives on this earth we always have the mythology of our forefathers to fall back on. And this to me is the surest sign of the lazy mind. ( you mentioned that every spirituality that you have studied “entertains some conception of both” referring to GOOD AND EVIL, that is exactly my
        point…. superstitious minds left to their own without critical thinking comes to the most simplest of solutions, in this case the dualist struggle between
        forces for good and forces for the other side…… “evil” which curiously could have had origins with the concept of the opposite side of a balance…..

        In other words you, when you enquire of “a question of inherent goodness” aren’t you also asking in a round about way “isn’t evil also inherently with us and natural too”

        First clue. Stop thinking in dualistic terms, don’t render something down to a base structure, because once it as been so rendered , it has no meaning, just as something cannot be considered GOOD unless one even contemplates the possibility it might be EVIL, or that for something to be good evil must also exist!

        But i seem to be repeating myself

        thanks for your reply and taking the time to respond.

        You also have a glorious day everyday.

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