Sunday, 18 December 2016

On Being Good

In the middle of the night when you can’t sleep because sleep has never been your friend and you are thirsty because you do not have drinking water in the house and there is no electricity because the purveyors of electricity are inept and the government is inept and you are ashamed that you supported them during the elections, you imagine about good people and wonder if you are one. You have had this argument with yourself very many times and you just want to put an end to it. Like, if the world had a giant brown notebook with ‘Register of Good People’ written over the top in blue ink, would your name be in it?
This question has been asked very many times: what is the definition of a good person, like, what does it take to be a good person? Is a good person someone who does not drink alcohol, for example? But alcohol seems too trivial a thing to judge a good person by, just like smoking, just like womanizing. Isn’t it possible to be an alcoholic and be a good person at the same time? - A smoker and a good person at the same time? - A womanizer and a good person at the same time?
When I was a child, my definitions of what made people bad and good were way too broad and narrow respectively; these ideas were greatly influenced by my keenly pious mother, whom I love so much. For example, in my mind, you were a bad person if you consumed alcohol, if you watched any movie that was not gospel, if you listened to any music that was not gospel, if you watched Channel O, if you were a lady and you wore trousers and used attachments and wore lipstick and stuff. These days, however, my ideas of good and bad are not as streamlined as before, for example, I hardly think that religiousness has anything to do with being a good person: One of the best people I have ever met is agnostic, and some of the worst human beings I know are devout Muslims and Christians. So, no, religiousness is not a determining factor.
But how do you even define being good? In my mind, a good person is kind, is not afraid of putting others before himself/herself, is humane and so is able to empathize with people, understands pain and suffering and grief (even though he or she may not know what the right reaction to these things are, the important thing is understanding).
Therefore, it does not really matter here what variant God one bows to.
Are there advantages to being good? Like, is there something to be gained by trying to do the right thing and feel people’s pain at all times? I don’t think so, but at the same time, I don’t think it matters. I think a lot of us get it wrong here. We exhibit kindness because we expect a reward in return. In church they tell you to sow bountifully so that we shall reap bountifully: ‘sow a seed to proceed’ and that’s why many of us give tithes and offerings, because we want to be rewarded by God. How about you just be kind and be good because it is the right thing to do?
I read of a Sufi woman by name Rabe’a al-Adiwiyah, she was a saint of Sufism. She was seen running through the streets of Basra carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. Someone asked what she was doing and she said she was going to pour the bucket of water on the flames of hell and use the torch to set paradise on fire so that people will not believe in God for want of heaven or avoidance of hell, but believe because He is God.
What a story, right?
How about we try to be good and do good not because our God wants us to do these things but because these things are the correct things to do in every situation? In my mind, you are only as humane, as kind, as good as your heart is and you cannot say your heart is humane and kind and good if the only reason it is these things is because it knows a reward is coming.
Be safe and be kind to other people!

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