Boundaries To Goodness

I’ve been reading Dune for the last week or so. The book is such a strange juxtaposition. On the one hand the last two books are, in my ever humble opinion, an extended metaphor for a passionless life lived by rote rather than in active awareness:

Leto builds an empire that lasts thousands of years and creates a lasting peace across the galaxy. Of this peace, he says:

“What am I eliminating? The bourgeois infatuation with peaceful conservation of the past. This is a binding force, a thing which holds humankind into one vulnerable unit in spite of illusionary separations… I demonstrate the terrible danger of a gliding, passionless mediocrity, a movement without ambitions of aims. I show you that entire civilizations can do this thing. I give you eons of life which slips gently toward death without fuss or stirring, without even asking ‘Why?’ I show you the false-happiness and the shadow-catastrophe called Leto, the God Emperor. Now, will you learn the real happiness?”

It’s strange to me that Herbert, in writing a massive statement on the individual’s capacity to be present, has all of his heroes ruling through a superiority borne of a massive breeding program.

I’ve been scanning The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama today as well. A wise and compassionate person whose capacity is borne of simply being the most recent of ten thousand incarnations of some noble spirit.

It pisses me off, honestly. Imagine that someone watches Hatrobot’s Trichinosis:

What happens when they ask “what can I do?” They’re going to choose to do something even if that something is to not change their behavior at all. As they’re figuring out what exactly they’re going to do, they’re going to do what we always do when figuring out our behaviors: consider what other people have done.

It only makes sense, right? That’s how society works. There’s a general way that things are done. Standards might vary across classes, races or nationalities, but only a dumbass would choose their actions without considering their understanding of the world through what they’ve seen happen to others.

So I think it matters quite a bit that so many of our examples of dedicated do-gooders have something phenomenal in their history — they’re an old soul or they’re the son of God or some other random form of saint. Not to knock sainthood, but I just keep wondering how I know when what I’m doing is good enough. I’m almost certain I’ve been setting the bar too low because I’ve been assuming that the hard work will be done by someone else with a more suitable history.

My dream now is to create something that helps people have the resources to try and exercise that desire to help others, however that will play out. People think about doing good in terms of heading to Africa and digging ditches or building schools. How do you create sustainable systems though when the resources just aren’t there?

The problem is here as much as it is there. If you look at a graph of self-reported happiness as a function of earnings in America, there’s a positive correlation right up to around $30k a year. It turns out that after you’re got stable food, shelter and a bit of security that money won’t buy you happiness.

What then for the millions and millions of dollars that we spend beyond that? Why is it overdramatic to think of that excess in terms of what could have been done with it? How is it that basic budgeting all of a sudden becomes an idealistic fiction when applied at the scale of the world? The fact that I have something means that someone else doesn’t have it. It’s not magic, it’s just uncomfortable to think about.

I don’t give a damn about the injustice of some people earning thousands of times more than others. I don’t think think the world owes me anything. It just makes me sad when it seems like everyone is so busy climbing whatever ladder they are on that they don’t realize the price they pay. The person making thousands of times more than everyone else means those thousands of people can’t focus on what they really want because they have to worry about surviving.

I want to play the game. I want to start a business. I want to start a wildly successful business and have the good sense to know when I’ve got enough and let the excess pass to other people. Kudos to the people who have created and amassed amazing amounts of wealth. Many have shown amazing innovation and effort.

I just think suffering happens because of these concentrations and rather than attempting to fix the problem through the use of force via taxes or revolution, simply let the same markets that concentrated the money take it back.

There will be people who create for the simple joy of it. It seems like such a good idea to put those people in charge. Let there be as many opportunities for a little kid to dream of helping people and succeeding in life as there are to dream of becoming a success by making money.

That is the good I would like to do. WWJD? No idea. This is what I would do though, and what I imagine of Jesus (which is all I ever knew of Jesus anyway) approves.

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