Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Question of Good

I was having a thought the other day, about what it means to be a 'good' person. For someone of religious conviction it's quite a simple matter to be able to follow the rules laid out and be able to call yourself a 'good Christian/Muslim/Jew/Insert Faith. Yes, there are some tricky moments as society moves on from the times in which your religious tenets were created, but on the whole there's a useful guidebook to help formulate your definition of what it is to be 'good'.

For those of us without religious faith, or at least with more questions than answers regarding belief in a deity, 'goodness' is a little more difficult to quantify. We all follow a basic Christian set of ideals, which are pretty much identical to most other faiths, but I actually don't think most people stop and think about it. We know that 'good' people don't lie, cheat or steal, hurt others physically or mentally, or generally behave in a way that upsets the delicate structure of society. We all have to live together, so we have to get along - or at least ignore each other as much as possible.

But is adhering to the basics really 'good'? Is it enough to not steal? To not start a punch-up with a guy in the pub? To not lie to your partner about where you've been and who you've been shagging? Surely not doing bad is not the same as doing good?

If I had been asked, at the moment all this was going through my head: "Are you a good person?" I would have had to stop and think. I'd always presumed that, while I do some bad things, I am a good person on the whole. Don't most people think that? But actually - am I 'good', or am I just 'not particularly bad'?

I thought about it. I realised the only way to try and figure out whether I'm good or not is to think about the good things - if any - I'd done in a single day, and weigh them against the bad. So, today I'm looking back over yesterday and making a list.

1. Got up and discovered a parcel had been left at our house. It should have been delivered to our neighbour. I took it straight round. - This isn't really good. This is just what a person should do. I suppose it may edge towards good because I took it straight away.
2. Got cross because Fisher fielded a call which confused the issue of my mother coming to stay. She'd said she was coming to stay with us, going away for a weekend. Then heard she was coming over only to go stay elsewhere for the whole time. Felt we were being used as a B&B, and that we were being bypassed - especially when a flight was booked meaning we weren't being given any time with her at all. Felt world was revolving solely around others. Felt fed up. - All can be filed under 'not good.' Bad? Not sure. I think it's understandably disappointing to be told your mother's coming to visit you, and then be told she's actually using you as a stop over on her way to see others. Bad is feeling angry, though.
3. Went to Gloagburn for brunch. Felt grumpy and sad owing to above. Was not much fun to be with. - Not good. Probably bad.
4. Went to Tesco and bought weekly shop. Fisher feeling slightly ropy so told her to go back to the car and unpacked, packed and paid for shopping myself. - Again, this is how human beings should behave. Don't think it deserves the accolade 'good.'
5. Helped an old lady with her shopping. - No big deal. I only helped her pack it into her trolly, so it was hardly any skin off my nose. Still, I suppose I noticed she was struggling a bit, which is good. Others might not have cared. But does this deserve to be considered 'good'?
6. Cooked supper for Epona and Shah - teriyaki sea bass and pavlova. - I think this is good. Shared food and broke bread with neighbours. Took bother of cooking away from Epona, who is very busy at the moment.
7. Went to bed without doing the washing up. - Bad because Fisher was left to do it.

So that's a list of my actions yesterday. Hardly inspiring, is it? And yet I would consider myself a 'good' person? I think not.

I'm not a good person. I'm just a person.