“Good” is an interesting word, and an even more interesting concept. We use the word quite often to describe a variety of things, often the word alone is a complete comment. When spoken, inflection and intonation say as much, even more than, the individual words. This is one reason written communication can often fail to convey the intended message, there is no inflection.
We like to think of ourselves as “good” people. Good Parents, good spouses, good members of our church or political party. As part of that, we believe that having children, being married, or belonging to a particular church or political party is good.
The problem arises from our digital, “pass/fail”, binary world. If something is not good, it must be bad. As humans, we’re not very good with grey. I wonder if the prejudice against grey hair springs from that?
In creating a totalitarian world, George Orwell eliminated the word “bad”, knowing that altering language was the first step in altering minds. “Bad” was “ungood”. In the concepts of Buddhism, all attributes are seen as degrees of their opposites.
This is one representation of the wheel of attributes, there are many interpretations, and my time as a Buddhist ended because I could not receive an adequate explanation. The concept, as presented to me, is that everything is a balance of opposites. Both good and bad exist within an individual, and in fact, both exist within each other. Nothing is totally one or the other. The rain makes the crops grow and drowns children.
This appeals to me (not drowning children, but balance). I like to think of myself as a good person. I like to try to do good things. Sometimes, what is good for some is bad for others. I have, in my life, done things that are universally accepted as bad, yet I am overwhelmingly seen as a force for good. If you were to look at any twenty four hour period in my life, you might think me a saint, or a devil. I am neither, although the weight of my actions carries me much closer to saint.
This again can be seen in Hinduism. Shiva, which some see as the supreme being, is also the destroyer.
It must be interesting dancing with those extra arms. In order to build the future, the past must be destroyed. As a destroyer, Shiva is revered for her mercy and benevolence.
The great conflicts occur when two groups cannot agree on a definition. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians believe they are good, and the other bad. They both believe they are defending themselves, and the other are terrorists. You probably know a wanker without whom the world would be a better place, but that wanker has a family who might miss him.
I used to hang out with a group of people who felt that their good works balanced their evil. I believe that argument fails when you start buying “indulgences”. Acknowledging that you’ll do something good tomorrow to balance the evil you intend to do later today, or justifying today’s evil with yesterday’s good, sets off the “TILT” mechanism, game over. Because life is not a game.
Life is a balance.