For several years, I’ve been chasing goodness. At first, I wanted to understand the intellectual concept of moral goodness. That seemed like a daunting goal all by itself, but I made progress in coming up with at least some kind of definition of goodness. Later, though, I declared that I was going to work to become good, and that I was going to do that live online on my In Search of Goodness blog. The idea was to let my readers in on my day-to-day struggles with being good. Roh Ruh. That didn’t work so well.
I posted Day 1 of Being Good, and immediately fell silent. Can you say, “terrified beyond words?” Can you say, “I’m not a good enough person to be pulling my metaphorical pants down in public?” I also struggled with what felt like an intellectual trap. The instant I said I knew what it meant to be good (I had to know that in order to try to be it. Right?), I felt like I had been locked into a tiny box. Suddenly other people’s ideas of goodness were outside. They were shouting and pounding, desperate to get in, but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.
Where does all this that leave me? Questioning and searching, I guess. Not so different than usual.
I have no intention of letting go of my quest for goodness. However, the best I can do right now is to conceive of this as an old fashioned newspaper beat; let’s call it the morality beat. On this beat, my mission is to unravel the concept of goodness and to look across cultures, political persuasions, and the religious and secular landscapes for the answer. My goal is to understand what we frail, conflicted humans mean by being good, doing right and acting morally, and to unravel how we make morality and break it.
Oh, and my goal, is to find a way to talk a little more personally about my own journey. I’m gonna write this, I swear. It might be published 20 years after I die, but I am going to write this. I have published one personal bit of memoir on the topic called “Was My Father Evil?” This was in the August 2011 issue of The Progressive, but the piece isn’t available online, and I don’t have a scan of it, yet. Stay tuned. I also blogged about my personal tussles with Christianity.
I have published a few other, not so personal, stories on the topic. Here are a couple of links:
John Fisher got his soul back when he visited a cemetery in Greece. Shelley Corteville felt “rocketed” into healing when she told her story at a veterans’ retreat after 28 years of silence. Bob Cagle lost his decades-long urge to commit suicide after an encounter at a Buddhist temple.
“There is no form of goodness that’s good in every situation,” (Ruth) Grant says. “Nobody is a perfectly good person.” Whether someone can be fully good “is like the question of defining goodness. That would be as if I were putting a box around the idea of goodness and saying that we all have to go out and be like that person.”