The most important part of being a good, mature person is to finally get over yourself. I think this is the biggest challenge particularly to intellectual people (like many here) who put more effort into their ideology than they do into their fashion (like everyone here). I noticed that many of my friends who have been lifelong apolitical & un-ideological have a much easier time of being good people without any particular principled stance.
People get way too many kinks in their proverbial rope after years steeped in ideology. Of course, the benefits of intellectual pursuit of abstract thought are innumerable, but without taking time to untwist your knots once in a while, you are apt to become un-likeable to a great number of people. Nobody needs the self-righteous in the corner cutting them down for their particular brand of bliss.
I have some of those guys in my Facebook feed where, to them, some political/religious/social cause is a life or death affair. And you sure as hell better not go in there and make an opposing comment or you’re liable to get deleted or cold shouldered, liable to get ganged up on by a pack of mad ideologues. They think it is still somehow impressive to be so principled, so righteous. I dare confess that perhaps I am sometimes guilty of this but I will say that I am not the last person in the thread to extend the olive branch when arguments present themselves.
But the most righteous men are the ones who got over themselves a long time ago, and I have been trying to model myself after a few of these characters who I am convinced could sit down and have good, meaningful conversations at a circular table with the Taliban or the Aryan Brotherhood.
… And isn’t it that when we picture Jesus Christ or the Buddha, we picture such a person? Somehow I feel Christ to be the type drawn like a magnet towards the worst extremities of societies out of both curiosity and a desire to straighten out the crooked. Of course, we are not men and women who can make a violent extremist reform after a few verses of poetic dialog, but certainly we must have some self-confidence as to theoretically plant a seed for positive change or at least nourish the ones for positive change that lurk in the heart of all of us who are the Beloved of God…
And maybe we can be even bigger & badder than this and approach the topic with the assumption that maybe nothing needs to change. Maybe these people are already grounded and moving towards a positive goal — a goal that we might not recognize or agree with, but maybe, just maybe, we don’t have it all figured out ourselves. Maybe these people, however different and queer they may appear to be, even are included in some special manifestation… Boy, get your head around that! Maybe even the dirty isn’t dirty, and maybe it is just something that we cannot recognize as clean; maybe something greater is served by a mysterious means… Maybe the one thing holding these people together and keeping them from a more horrible existence is this Third World ideology or this prison gang.
Either way, maybe it isn’t our business to entangle ourselves in another spider’s web or play Judge & Jury to a court case we haven’t sat the whole way through. Especially we should not do this if it interferes with the good.
This is overcoming oneself entirely when we dismiss even the idea of being judgmental to the Other, perhaps; to finally just have a toast with the enemy and see how much we can gain through a tentative few hours as friends instead of foes. To be able to stop seeing the enemy as the enemy, even if it is just for a few hours… That speaks well. To have no enemies? That speaks volumes of good.
I think it was said that one ought to do business like strangers but live like brothers. And perhaps such a stance applies to ideology as well. We do not have to let our religious & political differences be an eternal thorn in the side. When basic goodness & ideology come in conflict, which is the first we should sacrifice?
Ideology is a mere interpretation of the Good; when ideology trumps Goodness we have lost any chance at achieving anything through said belief system.
Even if this doesn’t serve to convince perhaps we should realize that after a while doesn’t this all become a tad bit boring? Where is the Frenchiosity that we need? The spirit of the Existential Life… Where we can all smoke too many cigarettes and drink too much coffee in the morning, too much wine in the evening, hurting our health through a myriad of vices and rubbing shoulders with every manner of repugnant type of person because we can, can, can. (sadly, a Moulin Rouge reference) (even here).
Even if we don’t want to be good — at least we can be indifferent and through indifference express that famous Parisian arrogance the world has come to hate yet envy (and perhaps even envy and hate are connected). We can view it as all for naught… And then why bicker of an All that is Naught? And why not recognize that in a twisted place there grows the Twisted Thing, and to spit and scorn and slap the muzzle of the Twisted Beast is a purposeless act that only betrays an inner spite & lack of self-control.
But what I would really advocate:The greatest gesture we can make to benefit ourselves in the long run is to finally let go of those uptight principles and desires that prevent us from the ultimate expression of humanity: kindness & friendliness. I think it was the Buddhist monk who-will-not-be-named-because-he-ceases-to-care-for-any-permanent-attachment-to-a-singular-identity who said Kindness is my religion. At some point the only will that we should have left in us that transcends ideology is the Will to Compassion. And this means approaching anyone or anything, homeless & dirty or filthy in their luxurious riches; to approach the crooked and the straight; to approach the extreme and the normal, the super and the mundane… All with a similar kindness & Will to Compassion. In Compassion, we triumph over our own identity & we transcend the limitations that our mind has put on us through a developed ideology and we fulfill the Truest Good. That of Unconditional Wellwishing. Unconditional Love. Agape. Compassion. And so forget the Principles & Ideals we have whenever they come into conflict with Kindness, Calmness, Compassion & Love. There is no one too great a Sinner, too far gone to be bereft of Good Will. No matter how bad we think someone is… We cannot let them take away the most important part of our character: Compassion. And who are we to withhold the Medicine of Compassion & Care to a Sick Body? This is swallowing pride.