Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good and Evil

Part 3, or the third penalty, is good and evil: "In a spiritual life everything is morally charged; nothing is neutral. Choosing between good and evil is a daily effort, but taking responsibility for your choices makes you fully alive. … When we intensify our moral awareness, everything becomes a big deal."

On one level, I have a lot of skepticism regarding this. "Good" and "evil" are both evaluations. They are terms of relativity and judgment, vague and indistinct. What makes something good? What makes it evil? A few things are clear, but most – the vast majority – are situational. The same behavior causes harm in one circumstance, healing or help in another. For instance, killing somebody in one case is pure murder, and harms the individual and his family. In another, it saves someone's life and prevents harm. The real question, is what is the reason or motive for the action? What needs are being met or unmet, and to whom do those needs belong? And is there a different way to act, which will meet the needs of everyone involved.

Too often, the concept of good and evil leads to an abdication of responsibility, not a taking of it.

On another level, the idea that the meaning of life is found in spirituality, that choices are morally charged, and that taking responsibility for those choices is vital in a well-lived and honorable life – that resonates. And the more aware we are of the implications of our choices, even the most minor ones, the better we are equipped both to make choices that serve life, and to take responsibility for our failures. We are also better equipped to deal with the nuances that arise, and to choose the most honorable, and least harmful option when we are faced with situations that cause harm no matter which way we go.

For instance, when I chose to transition, it meant betraying a marriage of 16 years, and it meant taking my sons' father out of their life. It was the hardest choice I ever made, because I could see so clearly the people I was hurting by doing it, and they were the people I loved most in the world. Yet I could also see that choosing not to would hurt them even worse – in fact, that it was hurting them day by day. Kristin suffered my depression and dishonesty. I could not connect with my children very well – I was not emotionally available to them. And I was so damn close to suicide – how much worse that would have hurt them! Making that choice, my boys have two moms who love them and are fully available. I set an example of courage and integrity, to replace my former example of deception and depression. The price was large, and continues to be large, and there are plenty of people willing to condemn my choice from the comfort of their own moral armchairs. That's okay. They know not of what they speak. I met the needs of my family as best as I was able.

So I agree with the meaning behind Gatto's words, but not with his language. I think it's a lot more useful to think in terms of needs and feelings, than in terms of good and evil. Not only does it offer more flexibility when it comes to choosing strategies to meet needs, it also is a better path to embracing the responsibility, beauty, and pathos of life.

8 comments:

anne said...

Hi girlie,

Good and evil are bullshit cop outs. There, there's my two cents.

Why? Because they are evaluations, often made in the moment about people or processes that are in the way or helping out a particular strategy, if I may use an NVC word. People cloak this completely spirit-less logistical evaluation in some kind of pseudo-morality to evade responsibility for their actions or evaluation. If I don't want you on my team, it's not because I don't want you on my team, it's because you are bad. There now the responsibility has been passed to you and it's your duty to find out why you are bad and correct yourself.

I cannot say enough against the good/evil thing. I advocate the position of:

NO PROXY (meaning you are on your own and it's on your head)

PERSONAL SOVEREIGNTY (meaning you own your own life and are responsible for your own actions)

KARMA (meaning if you do something, yeah, it will haunt you, and if it doesn't, you've done some tricky thinking to evade thinking about it)

BUT

I'm not responsible for everyone else. This is a tough one for me since I tend to rush in and try to make things better for people or take away their burdens. I've had to learn to value their own struggle and not just fix it no matter how much they want me to fix it. Dr. Coyote taught me that no matter what I did to help him, he would always misinterpret it completely the opposite and thus killed my pride in being able to help him.

That's a biggy--pride. People who often want to do good are just taking pride in doing this and not seeing that whatever they do it can be also judged as bad or evil.

Perhaps if we walked around and, for every time we were tempted to think "that's good" "that's bad" we thought "that's effective" "that's ineffective" because that's what's really going on, it would disable this MORAL thing from logistics of effecting different strategies to meet needs.

What you did was evil by some people's evaluation, but was it effective--it sure the HELL was, because here you are, blooming with health and life and the boys and K are so much better for it that there is no comparison.

Morality belongs in the realm of ethics, not action. Morality belongs in deciding if people are acting motivated by compassion and consideration. Moral judgment is for motives, not actions. And those motives are hard to get at. It requires a great deal of empathy and often it it better to just put it all aside and keep the evaluation to yourself. But it's often obvious if someone is trying to be considerate or acting from the heart or trying to take responsibility for their actions and feelings and thoughts and words and not just blame others for them.

In my book, you acted out of compassion, even though you knew that you might cause some pain. You acted out of compassion for yourself and that is the first place people have to have compassion and consideration, for if you cannot empathize with yourself, who can you empathize with?

You reached out to yourself and gave yourself a hand out of the dark hell of having manhood forced upon you. Was that good? Well, it was considerate, which is better than good by far.

Agh, you got me on my soapbox!

But I'm behind you all the way, I hope you know that. I know that you now have the possibility of loving yourself which made your previous life a living hell.

And the kids know that you're capable of loving them now, too.

that's evil??????

yeah, sure.

love and hugs
anne

David Carrel said...

Evil is the absence of Goodness, and God is the essence of Goodness.

When Original Sin happened, man knew good and evil, and so man became his own judge of good and evil. Think about it. There are over 7 billion judges walking on this earth today all deciding what is good and what is evil.

God is the only One who can accurately know true goodness because it is Himself.

Anne, I like what you said about Pride and how someone could appear to be doing good, but have pride in doing it. True that. Not one of us can truly judge pure motives.

The First Domino דומינו said...

The price was large, and continues to be large, and there are plenty of people willing to condemn my choice from the comfort of their own moral armchairs. That's okay. They know not of what they speak. I met the needs of my family as best as I was able.

Seda, we're living in a relative world, where one thing is given meaning as it relates to something else.

From my standpoint, neither good nor evil exist.

But they are useful tools, a way to experience Who and What We Are.

Therefore, I call somethings evil, and somethings good, well knowing that both are illusion.

And if taken that way, you could say that they both serve an important, valid, and goodly purpose.

And of course, only God is Good, because She sets the standards, and even from Her perspective, no judgment, nor condemnation arise from those standards, because, contrary to the church and religion, There's Only Her.

And God cannot stand in judgment of God.

Check our my previous posts on this and other matters.

From where I stand, you're heroic and awesome.

Before we entered this realm WE, in collaboration with our soul, established the canvas, the colors, and the brushes we would use to compose our Life.

How we respond to that composition (the experiences, the people, the situations) is left purely up to us.

And there are no judges, no arbiters in the end to condemn or to punish, outside of ourselves.

And if we judge, we can also forgive.

But to understand that there is nothing to judge, nor forgive, but that Life is merely an opportunity to create and recreate Who We Are, is the grace that propels us forward.

Therefore, live within that Grace, and live graciously.

Namaste

Black Diaspora said...

"In a spiritual life everything is morally charged; nothing is neutral".

I would rephrase this comment a bit, and say that in a "[religious] life everything is morally charged," and that "nothing is neutral."

A life lived spiritually is a life lived within God (Spirit), a place where "morality" (judgment by certain pre-established rules) becomes null an void.

Seda said...

Hey, Anne, you're right, of course. Goodnevil ARE cop-outs, evaluations, and vary according to the individual using them. Thanks for the kind words, too. I'm with you on proxy, sovereignty, and karma.

David,
God as the essence of goodness is too vague to be useful, as is evil as the opposite. Some people think grapefruit is good. I don't.

More specifically, God is Love, Truth, Life, Beauty, Principle, etc. These words are relatively specific, much more meaningful. Now I have a picture of what "good" might mean...

First Domino, welcome. You're right, good and evil don't exist as anything meaningful. If they can be used to good purpose, more power to you!

Thanks for the kind words. Namaste!

Black Diaspora,
Thank you! I think you're exactly right. I also think there's a lot more to say on the subject. Care to expand on it a bit? Especially the spiritual life...

I appreciate your

Black Diaspora said...

"Care to expand on it a bit? Especially the spiritual life..." Seda

I call it living from the "inside out," rather than from the "outside in."

There are spiritual ideals revolving around a central sun we call love--forgiveness, kindness, joy, peace, happiness, and many others.

These ideals can't be found in our world as pure essence, but merely as manifestations, and expressions.

We recognize them when we see them.

As long as we dwell in Spirit (love, the totality of being), we always express that which love is.

Religion, to the extent that it furthers the goals of love, can it be said to be relevant.

To the extent that religion enters into judgment, condemnation, and punishment, to that extent does it abandon love, and with it, its spiritual foundation.

Yet, one can live a spiritual life without religion. The two are not necessarily synonymous.

Seda said...

BD,
Thank you! That is profound, and well put. In particular, I like this: Religion, to the extent that it furthers the goals of love, can it be said to be relevant.

To the extent that religion enters into judgment, condemnation, and punishment, to that extent does it abandon love, and with it, its spiritual foundation.


That is so true. And that gets right the heart of religion, all it is and all it means. It is not synonymous with spirituality at all, as you say. They are two entirely different entities, and religion, depending on those things you mention above, either impedes or enhances spirituality.

Black Diaspora said...

"They are two entirely different entities, and religion, depending on those things you mention above, either impedes or enhances spirituality."

Precisely.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz