There’s an idea lurking in my head, named “what a person ‘should be'”.
More than an idea. A being, perhaps…but a non-manifest one.
You know this being, and I know this being. They’re the “good person”.
We walk around constantly comparing everyone to this ideal of the “good person” that rides on our shoulders, whispering shoulds and shouldn’ts in our ears.
Who is this ideal of the good person? Where did they come from?
I’m convinced that we each invent our own, informed by our experiences. Where we experience Love, we associate the behavior or being-state with Goodness. Where we experience Fear, we associate the behavior or being-state with Badness. Culture adds on to the texture of this mythological creature, this “good person”, as the paradigm around us teaches us its ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
Because, oh, yes – we each have a “bad person” riding around on our shoulders, too.
And everywhere we go, everything we do, we are comparing ourselves to one of these two idea-beings, and we are comparing everyone else to them, too…not realizing that these “good” and “bad” beings don’t actually exist.
We made them up.
Which leaves each of us with two choices:
I can continue to judge myself and the world by these made-up standards,
I can declare that there is no right or wrong, and live entirely free of moral constraint.
So, which do you choose? Which do I choose?
Actually, I’m going with Option C. Because I’ve discovered, in my life, that
- there are always two choices, and
- Option C is almost always the best route forward
Option C is the paradox. You choose both options. You don’t choose either. You accept the conundrum that if the choice is available to me, between one or the other, then the choice of each of them is available. And if each of them is available, each of them is just as likely to be Real. So to choose one or the other, unless further evidence presents itself, is to deny part of reality.
From my current perspective, it is true that right and wrong are culturally made-up ideas that don’t have any inherent substance. It is also true that they are very real cultural ideas, informing paradigms that shape the current manifestation of reality. Which means that right and wrong are both Real and Not-Real; they exist and they do not exist.
This is why so much of our story-realm – our tv shows, video games, books, music, and movies —is spent on the idea of good vs. evil. We are exploring the paradox, as we do all of the paradoxes within Duality. We are fascinated by it, drawn to it. We grapple with it and approach it from all angles, hoping to pin it down once and for all…but it won’t be caged. Its dynamic tension helps give shape to the world around us.
I’ve been playing with this, drawing this esoteric thread-of-thought down into the density of every-day life, and thinking about the standards by which I judge myself and the standards by which I judge those around me. I’ve been noticing my own unconscious “sorting” of humans, into “us” and “them”. I’ve been paying attention to the way in which “us” can become synonymous with “good” and “them” can become synonymous with “bad”.
I’ve been examining the stories I have about what goodness and badness are and trying to tease out the threads of their origins. Did I learn them from direct experience? From stories I was told? From stories I made up? Do I agree with them? If I hold to my standards of judgment, what do I think should happen to the “good” and the “bad” people, or parts of myself?
I’ve started noticing how I have these crazy impossibly high standards. Like ridiculously high. And I’m one of those touchy-feely hippie types, so on the conscious level when I or others don’t meet my out-of-reach standards, I don’t think of “bad”…I think of “falling short” or “less-than-perfect” or “flawed”.
And that’s baloney. Because underneath all three of those phrases, there’s a judgment of Wrong. Not good. Bad. Which means I’ve pretty much been walking around thinking that I and everyone around me are in some way “bad” or “wrong”.
I have decided this is a sub-optimal perspective on the world. And that there is a much greater measure of ease and grace available when I can redefine my idea of “good” as a point of aspiration rather than an expectation of myself or anyone else. In doing that, perhaps I can just accept the world as it is, for what it is: Beautiful. Evolving. Messy. Full of Drama and Violence. Poised for Transformation.
And then maybe I can accept each human for who and what we are: Everyone is in their process. Everyone is evolving. Everyone is seeking out role models and providing modeling for those around us (consciously or not).
Everyone has ideas of goodness and badness – formed from our own experiences and paradigms – that shape how we are living. These ideas we each carry – whether yours are in alignment with my own or not – are as valid as my own, because they emerge from the experience of another human being. I do not have to agree with them, and I have an obligation to my own being to protect myself from anything that genuinely threatens my system, but I do choose to respect the validity of those ideas that diverge from mine.
When I am able to practice this kind of acceptance (it ain’t easy), this being willing to look at the ideas of good and bad I’m carrying around and to take the world for what it truly is in my experience of it , I begin to find all kinds of spaciousness in the world around me. Grace flows, abundantly.
It’s quite lovely, really.
But then, Option C generally is.