what’s wrong, now?

“So in the end maybe that’s the challenge: to look inside your own heart as perceptively and seriously as you can, and to make peace with what you find there. If we hope to truly see another person, we have to start by looking within ourselves.”

Haruki Murakami, Men Without Women

I have made the pronouncement, at least in my own head, that I am not a bad person, a person who is intentionally seeking to harm, abandon, or mistreat others. Beginning with honesty, I take pride in these little virtues as if they were plants in my garden. By tending to them and watering them each day, I can make them grow to spread their leaves. And I wonder where that tendency to affirm my own goodness emerged from. Why should it matter that I think of myself as good or bad? Would I, if I thought of myself as a bad person, be more inclined to be bad and in such manner become worse? Or would I hope to seek a form of redemption or atonement?

What is it that I place the lens on when I make these judgments? It’s not that I consider myself a good decision-maker, a wise businessman, nor a keen investor. I am not talking about my ability to form a thought, express a feeling, or calculate a difference in two measurements. I am considering my own morality, and making these judgments myself would inevitably lead to assessment errors or biases. But no one else is really taking the time to assess another person’s morality. That level of intimacy does not exist. Unless you committed some heinous act, most people will not consider the moral weight of your decisions.

The complexity of morality is extraordinary. How can you be sure that an action is good? The only true thing we know is that we know nothing when it comes to what is good or bad. Of the things that are good, which of them are necessarily so? Telling the truth may be one of those universal moral principles that nearly every society would agree is necessary for the proper functioning of a group. With lies, you breed mistrust; with mistrust, you break unity. The union breaks. But then why do people lie? And when we think of the concept of a white lie, which can be good, we discover that telling the truth can also be bad. But is morality situational? Is a morally good action today perhaps not so in 10 years, 10 days? With a shifting value metric, it would make sense for this to be the case.

And I don’t know if what I am doing is right or wrong. The isolation, the grief, complicate things. But I have to keep searching, for what seems to be one way may be entirely another. By the time you get your vision focused, the sight has already changed. And that’s not easy to experience.

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