What is Good? What is Bad?
By James A. Jancik
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Many have struggled with this question since the beginning of time. We cannot hope to solve this puzzle in a few short paragraphs, but, I can get you thinking.
Many claim the definition of Good is absolute and can point to rules to define it. Other say good is relative and the definition changes with the times. I submit that "Good" is defined as a descriptor for something that benefits the "quality" of a person, place or thing. By contrast, "Bad" describes something that detracts from the quality of a person, place or thing.
However, whether something is "Good" or "Bad" is directly affected by the context the event is found in. For example, consider this scenario:
A man in a mask approaches with a knife and cuts you. You bleed.
Is this good or bad? Most would say bad. But consider this same scenario with more contextual information:
A man in a surgical mask approaches with a scalpel knife and cuts into you. You bleed.
That changes the context quite a bit, and we now see the scenario in a different light of quality. Many would now start to consider it to be good, and begin to assume the man is a surgeon and we needed surgery.
The more contextual information we add, the clearer the picture is of that person's quality state, which allows us to decide if it is "good."
Before we judge the "goodness" we need the context. But, in any given time frame, there is only a portion of the context available. Next we will look at how time affects the context.
Before the surgery, the man had limited movement of his fingers. Five days after the surgery there is less movement.
Given the time frame of five days, the quality state of the finger movement is less. Thus, the action of the masked man appears to be "bad" after all. But, we add more time . . .
Twenty days after the surgery, there is much more finger movement than before the surgery.
Now with 15 more days of time frame to judge by, the quality level of the finger movement surpasses the state prior to surgery and we can now judge the cutting action as "good."
Notice the action itself does not determine the"goodness-badness," but the results, or, Quality, as conveyed by the context over time. Does that simply indicate the "Ends justify the means?" Next we will look at "Quality"
Quality is a higher concept that is very difficult to accurately and totally define. (1) As soon at you "tie it down" to a legal definition, you lose quality in Quality. For example, take the Quality phrase, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes one healthy, wealth and wise." If we plug in what time is early, say 8pm, to go to bed, it implies that if you go to bed at 10pm, you are in error of the saying, and it limits the possibilities of Health, Wealth and Wisdom for one who has no choice (do to family, job, school requirements) but to stay up until ten. If we extract the principle taught in the saying, the true Quality taught is, "Sufficient sleep is needed for a successful life." But, how much is enough?
Quality is both relative and absolute concurrently. It is absolute in that it is always for the higher/best of a situation. And it is relative in its manifestation in any given situation. In its absoluteness, the Quality path will always be for the person, place or thing's higher evolutionary advancement; A.K.A. The "High Road," to God. In its relativeness, the current Quality path, for one, may be in complete contradiction to another's path, yet, both can be on a Quality path to God. This is why we find the Quality Principle in the judiciary application of the principle meaning of the law in specific cases, not just sweeping laws, cut and dry. One who steals to eat, while not being "right" is different from stealing millions of dollars in a bank fraud deal.
So, how do >I< know how much sleep is enough for me? Now that is a question, phrased properly with the proper sense of Quality. And you have to choose the means for the answer. We can seek others, experts, studies, etc., for examples to try and allow our internal mechanism to suggest times buy simply taking time to sleep. Then judge the results, remembering the examples of the surgery above. Remember the short term time frame may seem to be wrong, based on the Quality of the results. Then as time goes on, the Quality may rise, (as measured by Health, Wealth, and Wisdom), but in your life, the cost may be too high (like sleeping so long, and working so long, there is no other time for other people in your life, or to do other things) so, the actual overall Quality, the Ends, are not acceptable. So, you adjust the means and reexamine the ends over time and measure by the Quality of life.
I maintain we all have an inner sense to be able to notice our own Quality paths and choices. But the formation, growth and development of our Ego, our Human Personality, the "Flesh," if you will, interferes with that inner connection with Quality. We are taught making money, or having a model spouse, abundant sexual encounters, a particular car or painting of "value" is what success in life is about. And time and again, those marks are hit, and joy, and indicator of Quality, is fleeting, or not found at all. So, following our equations above, one has to adjust the Means, and note the Ends over Time as measures by Quality (indicated by Joy).
I also submit, Pain is a hint or "clue" in the game of life. The presence of pain indicates a less than perfect Quality path choice. However, once off the "Perfect" Path, all choices will be less then perfect, until we get back on the Perfect Path. So there will always be pain. The clue comes in this: the best Quality path choice is the one with the least amount of pain, over time. In any given set of choices there will be painful ones. And the best choice may indeed have more pain at the beginning. This is why many choose the "easy way" up front, but end up paying for it dearly later on.
One last variable for out formula. We do not live alone in a vacuum. In any given moment, our choices affect others beings. I maintain we have a responsibility for our choices and how they affect others beings. If Quality is for all, and if we can affect other beings, we of course have an effect on their Quality as well. How they deal with this effect, is, of course, their responsibility. (2)
So, how do we add pain and our responsibility for affecting others into our equation?
When we make choices we: Adjust the Means, note the Ends over Time, as measures by Quality, (indicated by the lest amount of Pain, and the most amount of Joy for All involved).
How does one find an unknown item in that equation? That is the beauty of mathematics. Rearrange the equation and plug in options:
To find the path, the route, the "what to do" (The MEANS):
What is the Goal? ( ENDS)
Now to find any other item, simple switch them around:
To find a goal, a purpose, a service, a job, etc. (The ENDS):
What resources, talents, abilities to I have available? (MEANS)
And so on and on . . . It is very hard, if honest, to abuse this equation, because if you raise one of the variables, the others are effected. And if you are lacking in sensibility in some variables, it will appear in your equation. When formulating a plan, consult friends, family, counselors, etc. others for comments and inputs on your choices.
For example. If someone is abused in a relationship, and considering action (or lack of action), they may not consider their best in the equation, since this lack of self consideration has allowed them to evolve into this present dysfunction. However, if they have children, or wish children, or have younger siblings, or is a mentor (willing or not) to a next door neighbors child, you have to consider the effect of the abusive relationship on them, if not yourself.
So . . . Back to What is Good! Well there are really two answers for that. The Absolute Good of any one person, choice, event, etc., is the END Quality judgement This answer, we now see, is not ultimately knowable in any slice of any means, or any time frame, or of any one pain, or in any one joy, in any one variable. Hitler, by ANY stretch of any imagination is judged bad, wrong, an abomination. Period. BUT, he and the world socioeconomic, religious, moral, political, etc., climate CAN serve as a GOOD example of what the Human Ego is capable of doing and justifying. Thus is showcases the NEED for principles or guides, which aspire to an application of Quality, to help make the right choices. And who knows, when the final chapter on Humanity is written, and books are examined in entirety, this one event may have been the turning point for Human Spiritual evolution and deemed a "good" dose of "bad" medicine.
This would by NO means absolve the horrible choice within the time frame of Hitler, for Hitler's personal Higher Good or Quality, as well as those he affected. And since we are in our current time frame, all we can really do is within our ability to assess the past actions, look within to tap our Quality connection with God, and project forward (using methods, like this equation) and try our best. THIS is the second answer to the question, What is Good, and the only real part of that question we have any real part in.
Some Closing Thoughts. . .
This "equation" is nothing new really . . . just a re-adaptation from philosophies of the Ancients in our current time frame. Quality is not subject to the time frame, it is the standard by which we operate within the time frame. Jesus of Nazareth said when asked to boil down all the ancient Laws of Moses down to one "law" in their current time frame, he replied:
"Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is as important: Love your neighbor as yourself" (3)
If I may paraphrase this statement in our time frame, and it becomes way of stating our very "equation" above:
"Embrace Quality as your absolute standard. Live your life with/for Quality, and live your life with/for the Quality of others."
To answer the question, "What is Good," we also have to be able to understand the answer. It takes effort, growth and work to do so. And once one understands, then one becomes responsible for Good in their life. This means change in habits, actions, beliefs, etc. and many do not wish to change. This is why many if not most religions, codes of ethics and laws of conduct are nothing more that a groups of Arbitrary Absolutes that are comfortable with those following and/or enforcing their implementation.
However, with all due fairness, without these attempts, as arbitrary, flawed or biased as some are or have been, we would have total anarchy. Anarchy is lower Quality then Order, so in a Quality sense, we are improving. I maintain we should constantly reexamine our laws for Quality in light of newer understandings of Good. Then when an change is needed, make the changes We should not criticize those who made the old law for being flawed. They just might of did the best they could to do good within their time frame. Realize some day it will be your turn to be improved upon. They did "good" in setting up their laws over anarchy. . . you did "good" in improving upon them. . . and the future will do "good" in improving upon your attempts...
Everyone wins on the road to Quality! The only losers are those who do not make Quality as their Higher Good. And even then, they "succeed" in giving us an example of why we should seek Quality. You can't lose. . . Only choose. . . But the personal joys are maxed over time with Quality choices made now.
Reach for the Sky Within . . .
(1)- See the book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig. It took an entire book to describe Quality, and he did it quite well! Reading that book will greatly expound on the concept of Quality, as I have no chance to explain the many nuances in these few paragraphs! (Press to return to text)
(2)- The concept of our responsibility to one another has been argued about from the beginning of time. For brevity and the sake of clarity of the focus on the subject mater at hand, which is difficult enough for me to keep simple, I will submit this as a given. We can talk about it in another discussion. (Press to return to text)
(3)- Taken from accounts in Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 22:36-40 (Christian Bible) referring Laws of Moses: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Leviticus 19:18 (Both in the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Pentateuch) (Press to return to text)
Written by James A. Jancik (firstname.lastname@example.org)