Think about your favorite person. Think about why you like them – their jokes, their kindness, their connection to you. What makes them so great? What’s that X-factor that makes them truly something special? We don’t have a word for it, but we all know it’s there. The thing that makes a friend ‘best’. If you had to say if it was good or bad though, you’d definitely say it was a good thing. That thing, that good thing that binds people together, is in everyone. Everyone is important to someone and has someone important to them. Everyone has something good, and seeks good things in other people. We’re social animals and we participate in a society. We share. We share experiences, memories, ideas, connections – our lives and our stories. Life can be hard. The world can be really scary. But we persevere and lean on each other to get through. When it’s cold we huddle together to survive. We don’t have control over why we’re here or what we’re doing, and we definitely don’t know what will happen. It’s terrifying just how much is unknown and hidden out there, and we have no idea if we can even do a thing to overcome the obstacles ahead of us. But no matter what comes, we’re not alone. We’re not alone because we’re all in this crazy thing called life together. Reality is the dream we dream together; so why not make it a good dream?
Life can be described infinite different ways. That’s the amazing thing about it – there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done. Each of us sees life our own unique and invaluable way. One way to see it is as a series of choices and infinite possibilities. If there are infinite possibilities, then the one you lead is and NEEDS TO BE the exact way it plays out. You are a key piece of infinity. Why would the universe do something twice? But it NEEDS to do everything once. Your story is one of the infinite others that needs to be told. If it wasn’t told in this exact way, infinite possibilities wouldn’t be infinite now would it? That doesn’t mean that our future is inevitable, however. Each choice we make is a departure from a possible universe towards towards the one we currently inhabit. Our lives as human beings is the result of the choices we make because we have the power to do so. Of all the possible paths life could have taken, you have taken this one. Maybe it isn’t the one you thought was the best one, but in an alternate one you might not be reading this right now under these circumstances. You are the version of you that is living this life. There are infinite versions of you that are relatively ‘better’ than this one, but there are also equally infinite versions of you that are relatively ‘worse’ than this one. (How you judge the value of your life is up to you. No one else could possibly judge you. Why be down on yourself?)
Ok, William. That was some “interesting” sophistry about metaphysics that ultimately added nothing to my life. I HEAR YOU but hear me out! My point is that each of us is like this! We’re all scared, lost, and confused jumbles of experiences given self-awareness. Being afraid is the worst feeling in all of creation! Despite all this, some-crazy-how, we’re still living. We have things that make us happy and people we care about. Despite fumbling in the dark, we still HOPE that tomorrow will be better than today. I believe that this sentence applies to all living sentient beings in any reality in any time on any planet. Cavemen fought a literal darkness with fire. Today we fight the darkness of climate change, pollution, and overpopulation. But just like cavemen banded together to face the denizens of the night, we band together to face the obstacles of our time. We may no longer need to wield torch and spear, but we wield our words and our will to empower those who stand forefront against the figurative darkness that ever looms in our future. Nothing has changed! We still use hope to fight fear. Truly, we have no enemy to fear but fear itself.
We don’t want to be afraid. We don’t want the people we love to be afraid. We don’t want people to hurt. We’re not monsters. We understand how it would hurt or frighten us if we received the treatment we give others. We have empathy to understand that. Empathy doesn’t inherently influence behavior, though. Just because we can understand why someone does something doesn’t mean we don’t abhor their action if it hurts or scares others. We have free will. Sometimes the best solution we can reach to deal with a problem involves hurting someone. We then try to do the most good based on all the information we have; to make the next best choice. There is no perfect solution, after all. I believe that this line of thinking leads to every great decision, benevolent or terrible. It is all a matter of perspective. We all operate to achieve what we perceive to be the most desirable outcome. To do things any other way would be irrational. But what we perceive as the most desirable outcome isn’t necessarily going to be the same to others. It might even come into direct and unavoidable conflict with others. It might even lead to a war. But no wars (I hope) are fought by people who just love killing and causing suffering. Each side believes they are fighting for what’s right. Everyone is the good guy in their story. What it means when the void stares back is that you understand that even the worst villains in history are also ‘good guys’. Their DNA, their experiences, their environment – all the variables of their life – led to them making awful decisions for what they perceived to be the right thing. That’s terrifying! That means each of us is capable of every terrible thing ever done by a person. Because we’re people too! If someone yanked my soul out of my body and shoved it into baby Hitler, I might have been a good boy who eventually caused genocide. Babies aren’t born evil (I hope). People, then, are like water filling the space their life gives them in the universe. But consider the opposite to also be true: each of us is capable of being a hero. We can sacrifice everything to do the right thing. We all can emancipate slaves. We all can protect children before ourselves. We’re all doing the best we can in our lives. What matters is that most of us choose this path, of our own free will. ALL OF US ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN, and we all want to be good. But Earth isn’t an Utopia. If everyone is a good guy fighting for the right side, how have we gotten here?
Each of us has to choose if we’re in heaven or in hell. No matter what world you wake up to, humans are remarkably adept at finding and separating the good from the bad. Society is just the shared perception of the state of the universe and our place in it. If you woke up in the Aztec Empire you would treat your Xth born child with every luxury and happiness in their life before sending them on to be sacrificed alive to the sound of cheers and applause. Why? Because you and everyone else (at the time) honestly believe it is the right thing to do. If you don’t do it, it would be the same as angering the volcano to destroy your city or angering the skies to stop the rain. If you don’t do it, all the people will burn to death or starve. We’re good people so we obviously don’t want that. Therefore we would do what we see to be the next best thing – sacrifice someone. From your perspective, it’s the right thing to do. We all want to do the right thing. Because we’re all good. But we can end up going down the wrong path in pursuit of it. This is how we’ve gotten here. People doing bad in the name of good happens every day. What this means is that when we find ourselves in 2019 or 2020 America, we see a country with lots of great things (ice skating, fireworks, laughing with friends, endless!) and a lot of bad things (terrorists, a shaky economy, exploitative corporations, also endless!). What makes the world heaven or hell (to our individual perspective) is how we choose to affect the world. Some of us see the problems and say, “I will rally against the bad and fight for good! We’re good people and we deserve to be happy and healthy”. How far you go to fight against the perceived “bad” determines just how much it changes. You get back what you put it in. The people who give up the ‘normal’ course of their lives to fight for the good of everyone are heroes in every time period. Writing this now I am reminded of Greta Thunberg. She is a 16-year old girl who is voicing her opposition to pollution and environmental damage despite a very powerful establishment that wishes to silence her voice. She engages the problem for the good of us all even though it puts her in a global spotlight and eliminates her ability to lead a ‘normal’ life. This is what makes a person a hero. [aside: I want us to have a good system where heroes can make meaningful change. What good is cleaning up the ocean if they’re dumping into it faster than you can clean it? I want a fair system where problems are solved by everyone – a Democracy that works for everyone. I don’t have the power to change things unless people support me and advocate for me. All I can do is ask everyone in America to put down their hostility and instead shake hands so we can face the future together. The real heroes are those that selflessly act to face humanity’s problems. I just want to make sure our government is something that empowers heroes to succeed, and gives everyone equal opportunity.] By the same measure, anyone who sees the exploitation of the masses or the wealth gained by causing pollution and thinks, “I want to get in on that and profit“, is choosing to make the world worse so they can put themselves above others. They choose selfishness instead of the greater good – individual over collective. Everyone they love and care about (themselves) is on the ‘right side’ of things so everyone else be damned. These people can’t feel the suffering they’re causing because they lack the empathy to do so. If they truly understood the pain they were causing how could they possibly still do it and get to sleep at night? People are born good, remember? How could anyone possibly go that far? Either at birth or because of their experiences, these people discarded empathy and became sociopaths: unable to connect to others. I am reminded of Dick Cheney. He knew there were no WMDs in Iraq just like he knew they had a lot of oil. In his head, he is the good guy -after all, getting Iraq’s oil out of the hands of a leader who won’t give America the oil at a very good profit margin so that America can be more energy independent is the right thing to do. Him getting richer at the same time is “just how it’s done”. America has the advantage over others and the rich has advantage over Americans. He doesn’t care about who dies to defend their country from terrorists because he is sending them to fight for his bank account. When Saddam was toppled, Haliburton (Cheney’s company – this is all literally true) swooped in to pull billions of dollars worth of profit out of a country we razed to the ground with taxpayer funded armaments wielded by country-loving patriots. Much like with guns, the military is wielded by the Commander-in-Chief to defend our nation against threats. However, much like with guns, this can be and was abused to inflict terror and violence to get riches and power. [aside: that being said, people have the right to defend themselves I am very pro-2A. We can find a solution without taking away freedoms and rights. This is America where people are free! Don’t just pass reactionary legislation – let’s have a real talk about the real source of violence -> desperation due to poverty or mental illness. We can and must treat these problems.]. The world is the summation of all our choices to form one cohesive reality. Which brings us to ourselves, and our perception of reality. We have to choice to either A) help everyone or B) help ourselves. I believe that there are no bad people. There are good people and sociopaths. AND THERE ARE MORE OF US.
If you’ve read this far then you’re about ready for the final point. And here it is: Next time you are about to attack a Democrat or a Republican, or get into a conflict with someone whose opinion doesn’t match yours just remember: They’re a good person and they’re just as lost, confused, and afraid as you. They were brought up with a set of experiences that led them to their current perspectives – ones that you likely would believe in if you had their life too. People are like water after all, adapting to best fit their environment and circumstances – people are a product of their environments. We’re all saying and doing the things we believe are the best decision right now based on the life we’ve led. Don’t buy into the distractions put out by the bad guys – the racism, sexism, jingoism or any negative ism or phobia. Underneath it people just want to feel safe and happy and have purpose and hope. We don’t agree on the best way to do something because our experiences suggest one solution is superior to the other. But we’re logical, rational beings; We have science, discussion, and civility. We can create the best solution for right now, and keep finding ways to improve on that solution. We just need to come together to find the compromises that hold us good people together with the HOPE that we can keep making the world better. We are ALL in this together. We, the Good People of this United States of America.
Note: Sorry if you didn’t like the metaphysics! Thanks for reading anyways. The message I want to bring into the national conversation is that we’re all good people doing our best. We’re all equal – equally scared and equally confused, but ultimately: equally free. You’re a good person and you’re a part of this society of humans. You deserve to be happy and you matter. Pass it on! I know I will. #WeTheGoodPeople