Is Being a Good Person Even Possible Anymore?
If you don’t watch The Good Place, you might not get the reference. But you will. It’s about everything good these days having something bad buried in its search history. And it made me wonder: is being a good person even possible anymore?
Take a salad for example. You are making a healthy choice to opt for vegetative fluffery instead of the hamburger and french fries you really want. This should give you some plus points for the day, right? Well, what if your salad ephemera isn’t organic? Are you now a supporter of Monsanto and all pesticides?
You just wanted a f*cking salad (and a little credit for passing on that juicy burger), but now you are about to go down the death spiral of modern society which makes it impossible to do anything good. If your vegetables are not only inorganic but also were flown in from another country now you are a fan of carbon emissions. Because you just had to have your f*cking salad for lunch. Instead, you just supported global warming. All for a damn cucumber.
It doesn’t stop there. What if you chose lettuce from a big lettuce conglomerate like Dole. Sure, they stamped the organic seal on the bag so you felt good when you saw your salad artist open it, but come on. It’s Dole. They make canned pineapples. They aren’t a Mom and Pop organic farm. And that’s where you sh*t the bed again. Because your salad spot used Dole lettuce, you just put Sarah Bixley’s two-acre organic farm just outside Portland out of business. You are now against small organic farmers.
This is the problem. If we think of being good as a mathematical formula, we will never get back to the plus. We will always be in the negative. And if you watch the show, you (and I) will end up in The Bad Place.
You Can’t Do Anything Right
You wanted to feed milk to a baby goat. It sounds noble (and really cute). But you went to do it at a zoo. Sure, it was an organic-friendly, animal rights activated, free-range place for animals that also happens to charge admission. But it was still a f*cking zoo. So now you are for the capture and captivity of wild animals. PETA will testify at your placement hearing and they are definitely recommending The Bad Place.
You wanted to support your best friend’s kid by donating some money to their school fundraiser. You didn’t know what little Timmy’s booth at the school fair was all about, but you supported it because you wanted to be good. Turns out Timmy is pro-Trump. And even though he is only seven and three quarters, he believes in Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Now you are a f*cking Trump supporter. Just because you thought $25 wasn’t a lot to ask in the name of friendship. Also, Timmy used 231 sheets of paper in the production of his “experience” because he can never make up his orange mind on the right wording. So now you killed trees with no regard as well. And you paid to do it.
You volunteered at a local soup kitchen. For months you served food, cleaned the bathrooms, and interacted with those in need who came to eat there. Then a story came out that the person who ran the soup kitchen was running it for profit and used weird tax breaks to get themselves a new car and home. And you were part of it. Even though you just wanted to help people, you are now part of the machine hell-bent on keeping them down. Way to go.
Here’s a tip: stop extrapolating. Choosing a salad over three greasy slices is a good choice. Even if your tomato came from a test tube, that’s not within your control and not something your salad maker even knows about. You don’t have to take every good thing you do and go down the rabbit hole until it’s bad. Because if you do, you will never do anything good.
Take and make choices at face value, but do your research. If you are concerned about global warming, do some research on the things you may be doing to contribute to it. If you want to support independent businesses over chains then stop taking the easy route on Amazon and go down to Bob’s Hardware on the corner.
We live in a time of deep research. If you want to find a bad connotation to something you did, you will find it. But if you stop extrapolating everything eighteen levels down, you might just find yourself enjoying the choices you make. You can’t be responsible for things you didn’t know about. And if something comes up later that does show one of your choices to have been misinformed, say so. Own it. Explain it. Don’t make excuses. Just be human. Be good.
How To Be a Good Person
Put away your scorecard. Life doesn’t work that way. You can’t be dragged for the unknown and unintended consequences of your objectively good deeds. Everything can’t be quantified by a f*cking algorithm. Some are going to tell you that it can be, but they are wrong.
Algorithms and mathematical computations are subject to the same biases as anything else. Because they are created by humans. An algorithm starts with a human and it’s a human who decides how to weigh certain things before it can do its “magic.” That’s why the original system for making it into The Good Place ending up being a colossal disaster. Human error.
Do you want to be a good person? Stop weighing everything everyone does. Yes, your partner cheated on someone in college. That was 18 years ago. It doesn’t mean they are going to cheat on you. And it doesn’t mean they are going to The Bad Place. Actually, your partner is, but that’s because of all the other sh*tty things they have done. Sorry.
Stop weighing what you do so heavily. Yes, you yelled at your kid for dropping a glass of water on the ground. It wasn’t their fault and you were kind of an a**hat, but you also are a wonderful parent. You just had a sh*t moment. You aren’t going to The Bad Place. Really, you aren’t. You are good. Even with the whole yelling thing.
Our lives can’t be weighed and measured at every turn to decide if we’ve lived a good life or a bad one.
Because as long as we are breathing we have the power to change the answer.
It’s not a math problem. If you’ve done some bad things in your life, you can stop tomorrow. Will there be weight against what you did in the past? Sure, there should be. It helps us evaluate whether we can trust you. But if you set off on a mission to be better tomorrow, wouldn’t you end up happier in life, even if you end up in The Bad Place?
It’s impossible to live a fulfilling life if we are always putting our daily routine into a formula designed to give us either everlasting happiness or eternal damnation. There’s a lot of middle ground. Enjoy it while you can.