On Good and Bad

If I am a judge, then at whose appointment? And by what right?

A fly ensnared in a web’s steel embrace. How should I judge the spider that feeds on its essence.

The bird that feeds off the spider; is it loved by its prey I wonder. What is good, what is bad. Who or what is the arbiter. And from what perspective.

Rock worn over eons by wind and rain has a simple consciousness of sorts. Is it good, the wind. Or bad. And the rain; by whom shall it be judged, that destroyer of rocks. And what will that judgement be.

The black hole, slayer of stars and galaxies. Is there any who will judge it, and by what standards. Good, its behavior, its actions. Or bad; who will say. What the rules.

And the human species. Out of ingredients pillaged from stars, like all else, its focus survival. Driven by evolution, selfish genes. Carbon and some water come to life takes over a rocky planet and devours it. Pushing all else aside, killing to grow and prosper.

Where in the food chain do we sit. On whom or on what do we prey. Food – a simple transfer of energy. From sun to plants and from thence to animals. Dog eat dog as they say. Sitting on the same food chain as the fly and the spider, we kill to survive and eat. Are we good or bad; who is to judge?

For the unaware, survival is all. All thoughts, all actions driven by instinctual urges. It need not be so but few understand in their rush for more.

A warlord rapes, pillages and steals. A business man in like fashion bribes and cheats to feed an empire designed to ensure his survival. Are they wrong these people? Bad?

A monotheist condemns the heathen for his disbelief. Seeks the survival of his meme. Blows down tall towers in great cities. Kills and maims for a muddled dream. Good or bad and who is to say?

Are we judges, should we adjudicate?

Our small package of atoms will tomorrow or the next day be dispersed to re-appear in some other guise. Will we side with spider or fly. Should we condemn warlord or business man. The monotheist, the rock, the black hole – judged good or bad. And on what grounds.

All may seem to be perspective. Birds and spiders, flies and black holes. Each has a view. Even the man who blows down tall towers in distant cities.

Yet the emergence of higher sentience may have brought new rules. May have created judges capable of seeing through the thick, impenetrable veil of self interest.

The abolition of suffering for all sentient species – a new banner for a better age.

There is hope but enlightenment is the price of entry. Awakening no less, often preached and yet still so distant.

Will we rise to the challenge. Or remain bound by the chains of evolutionary conditioning. Will we make a better world for all, a different universe. Or will the wheel of samsara never be broken.

13 Comments

  1. I’ve been pondering the current global situation, with freedom of speech under attack in France, and right to vote under attack in USA, and wondering should I be spending my time trying to make things better, or should I just accept that humans are largely stuck in samsara and that is not going to change quickly. And your post wonderfully expressed the essence of this question. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Colin. The only way to make things better is by gentle persuasion I guess. The problem with our “leaders” is that those who seek power are usually by definition those who will act out of the purest unenlightened self interest. We have the power to change our world; but few are enlightened enough to see that possibility. Most (but especially our leaders in state and politics) are stuck on “more”. Who can say whether our species will ever justify its evolutionary gift and make a better world for all?

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    1. I agree. Humans are most certainly NOT in charge. We are flotsam on a vast and infinite sea. My question is whether we should feel obliged to alleviate or at least not to cause suffering. I think we should help where we can. If there is but one benefit to consciousness then perhaps it is that: the ability to rise from the mere beast. Does it matter, our behavior? Perhaps not. But maybe we should act as if it does!

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  2. Certainly we should follow our instincts to help where we can? But may I ask where to look at human history to see where this works on anything but perhaps a very secret personal level ? (“Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing”. Mathew 6.3). Hubris produces bigotry and prejudice, ideologies, political parties, torture, wars and massive deaths it seems to me.

    Is the bad news that humanity is an incurable plague, but the good news is that it’s transitory?!

    Best wishes, Keith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m inclined to agree. With everything you say. It need not be that way given an assumption that we have free will. And yet that is the way it has always been. Despite good men preaching good ways to live over thousands of years. We are pigs ears and a likely to remain so.

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  3. Well, as Rumi said:
    “Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the World. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

    We all should strive to be a Tathāgata beyond all transitory phenomena, and be of service to all sentient beings.

    Great post. 🙂

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  4. I like your theme here Anthony, though I’m also skeptical about how the “abolition of suffering for all sentient species” might occur. Furthermore if nature is set up so that suffering is a standard operating feature of many forms of life (and perhaps even spiders?), then hypothetically removing it should throw a huge spanner in the works. But perhaps we could scale your plan back to sentient life under our domain, and thus effectively our pets and livestock? That should at least improve the situation for subjects that serve us.

    What if suffering in nature far outweighs pleasure in nature? In that case sentient life in general may effectively be seen as a curse of existence. I suspect that’s how things are. Thus we’d do sentient life in general a favor by destroying it. This is also one of those standard “evil mastermind” plots from the movies. Even if it does happen to be the case that nature is ultimately horrible, we’ll probably try to preserve it and mainly just look out for our own sentient based interests. Hopefully some day at least humanity and the sentient subjects that serve it will be reasonably happy. For this my hope lies in the progression of science.

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    1. ” I suspect that’s how things are. ” I suspect you are right. And I agree that destroying sentient life would probably be doing it a favour, unless a way to “cure” suffering could be found. I agree with hope lying in the progress of science – gene manipulation, better drugs and a post scarcity society. The big problem of course is that every form of life preys off other life forms. Except perhaps plants that survive on photo synthesis. But yes, I believe you are quite right to raise these issues. No wonder people commit suicide: lets be honest, it can be a perfectly valid and logical option. There is a blog on wordpress run for prisoners and by prisoners. I was reading one terrible article there the other day where some poor convict was contemplating suicide as the only way to escape violence and sexual abuse from other prisoners.

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  5. We are stardust made to breath, but unlike most other animals on this little planet have developed understanding – a conscience. Perhaps it doesn’t do to consider the plight of all other beings, just do the best possible to improve the lives of all which are close to us, animals too. If everyone did, well! However, in the few years we each have, greed is a big driver, it always was. But often, in the long run the greedy have altered the world for the better. Isn’t philanthropy the product of excessive greed.

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