Morality has always been a confusing concept to me. What constitutes good and bad? Who makes the distinction between what is right and wrong or good and bad behavior?
I wrote earlier that we all lived in an inclusive reality, but our views of life are entirely subjective. If our experience of life is generated from within us, then wouldn’t that mean that there is no absolute principle or rule that dictates what is good or bad?
Everybody have their own definition of what is good or bad. Yes, there are external stimuli that can determine your definition of morality. Perhaps you are influenced by your religion, your parents, your surrounding environment, political party, and many other influences. Whatever the case is, how can anyone ever say that an action is good or bad? Good or bad is just your explanation for how the world operates.
Actions, in reality, are not determined by good or bad. If anything, it only operates in the realm of cause and effect. There is a change, or a consequence that follows all activity. Good or bad is not the nature’s doing. It is our doing. It is our karma.
If you evaluate yourself, you can easily see that we put labels on events and things. Things are good if they are desirable to us. Things are bad if they are undesirable to us.
A very simple example would be looking at grades in school. Getting an A on a test is desirable, so generally everyone can agree that it is good. Getting an F on a test is undesirable, so everyone can agree that it is bad.
A grade is just a letter assigned to something. It does not have an inherent attribute of good or bad. If I twist the meaning around and said that A stands for Awful and F stands for Fantastic, wouldn’t the idea of good and bad be flipped? Yes, it would be.
This is why I never truly understood the concept of morality. Morality is relative and variable. It depends on who is doing the interpretation.
I can say with certainty that killing people is bad. But there will always be counter argument. What if I killed someone because that person invaded my house and threatened to kill my family? Would my action be good or bad?
I can say with certainty that helping people is good. But what if others saw my help as a hindrance? What if I gave money to a homeless person and he used it to fuel his addiction to drugs or alcohol? Would my action be good or bad?
There are countless interpretations that a person can make. We can even separate the actions and consequences into different parts and label each part individually. I can call killing someone bad, and protecting my family good. We can even add situations and actions together to justify if they are good or bad. I killed someone in order to protect my family; therefore the overall result is good. Whatever we do, the situation becomes exactly that.
Morality is confusing to me because there are too many grey areas. If the point of morality is to separate the good from the bad, then I think it does a terrible job at this. There are plenty of examples where things that are accepted today were immoral in the past and vice versa.
A simple example would be never getting into a stranger’s car. Back in the past, it was warned that people should never go into a stranger’s car because of the high likelihood of kidnapping. Now, we go into stranger’s cars all the time using apps like Uber and Lyft.
There are plenty of other examples that have conflicting views of good and bad. These include abortion, euthanasia, drugs, politics, sexuality, race, and so much more.
I guess, in a way, what I want to say is that morality changes. There is no absolute distinction between what is good and bad. In fact, morality has nothing to do with nature. It is a human concept. It evolves and changes with human activity and involvement.
Good or Bad?
Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to do good things. I wanted to help people, but I could never figure out what is the best action to take to help others.
Should I help an old lady cross the streets? How many old ladies cross streets nowadays? And if I make this my intention, does that mean I have to camp myself out on a busy city street everyday and wait for them to cross it? What if they don’t need my help and I insisted on it? Would I be doing good or would my compassion be misplaced? These are questions I often think about when I try to do good things.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I am unsure what is good and bad. I do have a keen distinction between the extremes of good and bad. I know for sure that killing someone is bad no matter the reason. I know that saving lives is always good.
However, even my extreme examples can be questioned given the right situation. I know that killing someone is bad, but what if the person I’m supposed to kill is Hitler or a mass murderer? Would I spare him? I know that saving lives is good, but what if the person I’m trying to save is terminally ill and suffering pain that I cannot even fathom? Should I save him or let him die?
Do you see my dilemma? Even in extreme cases, there could be a conflict of what is good or bad much less in everyday cases. I don’t understand what is truly good because even actions that I considered to be good do not guarantee a good consequence and vice versa.
Suppose I give a lot of money to a homeless person on the street. One possible aftermath would be that he uses the money to buy food, and sustain himself for a short period of time. This is a good consequence in my opinion.
Another possible aftermath would be that he bought as much drugs as he can and overdosed on them. Therefore, he killed himself. Now you may say that the two situations are independent of one another. Or that it was not my fault, but were the results not the consequences of my good action? They were.
I know that I have gone too deep into areas of speculations and make-belief scenarios. The situations that I have listed are all based upon my wild imaginations. Truthfully, I don’t even know what actions I will take in those situations because I never faced them. But I do these exercises anyway to self reflect. It helps me grow as a human being.
Life Without Morality
I forgot to mention that the reason I always wanted to do good things is because I feel great doing them. It is a no-brainer that when you do good things you will feel good and when you do bad things you will feel bad.
In my understanding of life, when you do good things or help others, you feel extremely good and cathartic. In a way, doing good things is a selfish action.
Refusing to do bad things, so that you don’t feel bad is the same selfish action. I am not a saint or an enlightened being. I just know that this is how the human mechanism works because I paid enough attention to myself.
I cannot say that this is true for all other people, but at the very least I can say that this is true for me. The reason I emphasized so much attention on the good things is to simply attract that within myself. I don’t always get it, but occasionally I do. In a way, I am seeking self-fulfillment in my actions and surroundings.
I did this for a long time until I realized that my understanding of good and bad is totally defined within the limits of my own mind. Let me explain.
An earthworm doesn’t think about doing good things. Whatever it is doing, either it is eating or excreting, it is doing good things by making the earth fertile for our crops. However, it has no such intention. The same thing can be applied to a tree. A tree doesn’t need to be told to convert the surrounding carbon dioxide into oxygen. It does so naturally.
Whatever these living things do, they are doing good things because they are living according to their nature. They are just being themselves, so the question of good and bad never arises.
Because human beings are not living according to their human nature, we have to think up good things to do. Whatever we may come up with, they are all subjective because everyone has his own definitions of good and bad. What I considered to be good things could be unbearable for many of you. It’s possible.
So this is not a matter of us doing good things. If your humanity flowers, then all the good things you will ever do will happen anyway. For example, if a flower blossoms, you don’t have to tell it to shoot its fragrance into the air, it will happen regardless of what you do. Nobody can stop it. It doesn’t matter if someone is there to appreciate the flower or nobody is there, the same fragrance will come.
So there is no need to overburden yourself with thoughts of morality. Don’t try to do good things. Instead simply dig digger into yourself. Learn who you really are and just go from there. And becoming just like that. Don’t worry about running out of things to do. This is no simple task, so it can take a long, long time.