eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Thursday, December 16

Truth and Goodness

When I was a child, I thought it was obvious that one should try to do good. I wasn't quite sure, though, what it really meant to be good. I was told the Bible explained how to be good and that it was written by God. I asked how we know whether the Bible was written by God, and I was told... the Bible says so. I didn't find this very convincing. I thought that before I could do good, I had to figure out what was true.

I think now that giving myself this task was misleading. There's a lot of information out there to sort through and a lot of it doesn't actually have much to do with goodness. It might be useful to good people, but I think it's a tool, not an end in itself.

I think the task should have been a much narrower one - to find out the truth about what it was to be good. Of course, in my pursuit of knowledge, I kept my eyes open for ideas about good, but I wasn't very broad in my search and stumbled into the first alternative suggestion I came across - Objectivism. To quote Ayn Rand, the founder of the philosophy:

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

Actually, before that, I had acted as if what I read in the Bible was mostly true. When I was 10 or so, I wanted to do something really good with my life - to help people. I wanted people to all get along and cooperate about helping each other. I thought that no person was born bad and anyone, if treated right, could learn to be good. I wasn't sure what it was, but I thought it was very important to figure out some way of helping people to be better to each other in general. I thought maybe I should write a book about it. I didn't know what ideas I would need to write such a book. I also thought a good person wouldn't hold onto material things that others could benefit from using.

I had a hard time with this part of being good. My family was pretty poor, and I was often hungry. Not that I starved, but I had a big family, and since I ate rather slowly, I didn't often get a second helping. I was thin, but not unhealthy. I wondered if it would be good still, if I wrote a great book that helped lots of people AND made plenty of money, would it be ok to keep enough of the money to enjoy myself... to have foods I liked and nicer clothes and ac (I grew up here in Austin, Texas, where most consider air conditioning a "necessity").

Anyway, back to the story, err.. point. I was trying to get at the idea that aimless knowledge seeking can be a distraction from doing what's good. I'm a bit tired and having trouble focusing on this subject now, but I'm sure I'll get back to it soon.

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