FACT: We are on a crash course to the End Times, stumbling, disoriented and defeated, toward our inevitable destruction and death. Rather than dispute or debate this, I want to discuss what we can do despite our inescapable present and inevitable future.
One of my current favorite television shows, “The Good Place,” recently evoked an insight as to how to answer the question that inspired this post (and with this show, those moments of profound realization happen often, at least several an episode).
Our cadre of main characters have all realized, after many, many attempts to change the inevitable (over 800!), that they are simply, without any bangs or whispers, doomed. “Doom” in this case means an eternal afterlife in The Bad Place filled with horrors unimaginable, or least, worse than all that we the audience can vividly imagine.
Rather than descend into nihilistic despair and anarchic behavior, this band of (anti)heroes – compelling reflections of the different facets of ourselves – came to a decision: To try. Not in an attempt to change their fates by earning enough points to merit entry into The Good Place, but to do good for its own sake. To help others, perhaps helping those others enter The Good Place.
What does this have to do with the dumpster fire that is our state of affairs, and the very likely worsening of said state?
- Why we should try
- How we should try
(Note: Even if you DON’T think we’re heading to hell in a handbasket, each of our lives WILL end. No amount of hope, effort, hail-marys, cryogenics, alien tech, illegal organ trading, or gene therapy will change that. We all die. If you haven’t thought much about that before, you might as well now, because Death is coming for us all. Such a downer, right? What I’m saying right now, therefore, applies to each and every Being.)
WHY WE SHOULD TRY
Oh, we’re all still going to die, and things are no doubt craptastic, HOWEVER, there’s a slight chance that all is not lost. A possibility for betterness. The bad (worse?) news is it’s likely that we will see that betterness many decades, centuries from now (if at all). In order to facilitate that betterness, we must plant seeds of goodness now. Each morsel, the briefest of encounters, the tiniest of gestures, to the most widespread actions, each of these are seeds for the future. Even if we will not be around to see it! It is the right, righteous, moral, ethical thing to do, and it is our obligation – yes, obligation – to do our best to put as much good into the world as we can, however we can. A gasp. A whisper. An intention. A word. A deed. A happy face emoji 🙂 . Whatever you can.
You might feel good for a bit.
We all have vices, whether you know it or not. You could argue that the most pious among us use good deeds as a vice. You COULD put your money, resources, time, and energies toward vices that benefit only yourself, that put you into a catatonic oblivion. That is a definite option. Opioids are, apparently, widely available. There are any number of addictions that provide temporary euphoria and relief from the harsh reality in which we live (my drug of choice is thought-provoking story-telling like The Good Place). Or, you could also use those same resources to pursue vices that *gasp* could help OTHER BEINGS feel good, investing in that unlikely-but-possible far-distant future of betterness, while also enjoying the high of helping. Don’t bogart the good vibes. This option is also much more self-sustaining in the long run. The first option just makes you feel worse, and you already feel miserable as it is, amiright?
So many ways. Literally infinite ways. You’d be hard pressed to run out of ways to try, to do good. That’s a blog post all unto itself, but here are some broad categories.
- Small is good: Remember what I said about each morsel, word, intention, gesture, whisper as seeds for the future? It’s true. You don’t have to start a non-profit, #socialmediamovement, or campaign to make a genuine and real contribution to the future of this planet. Not everyone can do all that *gestures vaguely* Big Stuff. And just because it’s more visible does not mean it’s more important or even more impactful. All the small acts, all the Acts of Random Kindness (ARK), add up. Just because they’re not quantifiable through exit polls or surveys belies just how powerful they are. Believe that.
- Create art: No Sistine Chapels, symphonies, or epic tomes necessary. Each of us makes art all the time, and we don’t even know it. Keep doing it, and try to be aware when you do. Selfies? Art. Adorable animals on IG? Art. A doodle? Art. An impromptu dance? Art. A silly song? Art. Painting your face for Halloween? So art. Smartphone pics of everyday wonders? Definitely Art.
- Reach out: Write that text. Open the door for someone. Say hello to the innumerable people who make our lives just a little bit better by preparing and serving us food, ringing up our groceries, cleaning our messes. Smile at a baby.
- Tend to life: Take care of fellow lifeforms like plants, four-legged family members, gardens, that houseplant clinging to life in your office, which leads me to…
- Heal: Yourself and others. Drink some water. Go to therapy. Share a meal. Re-read a beloved book. Walk to the store to pick up a treat for someone you love.
What are some strategies you use to survive this and pending “apocalypsi?” What are some things you’re doing or could start doing to try, to do good? Tell me in the comments.
(Further reading: Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other)