Is there good? I mean a deep down good in people, in societies, in nature? If you answered yes, then why is there so much violence and suffering? When nature gives so much, makes life possible, why is she often so vicious? She has always been a hard mistress. Is it possible that we have been such poor stewards that her fury grows? These are fundamental questions I have been exploring and we have all thought about. In my youth having no real first-hand experience of suffering, (at least not in accordance to the standards at the time) I would have said of course there is good. Then after watching a documentary or news cast showing innocent people suffering; I would have with equal or perhaps more zeal said there is no such thing as basic good. While I may not have been able to hold two contrary conclusions in my mind at the same time, it seems I had no problem switching back and forth largely due to the most recent input.
There are volumes of information on the subject, I have only scratched the surface on the topic. Given we live in a time when the uninformed demand equal billing with those who know, being partially informed allows me in good conscience to continue. What I have found is that there are no satisfying answers. Which makes it a great topic for intelligent debate, stupid arguments, and everything in between. I have also decided that it would have been much more fascinating to me thirty years ago; now it seems quaint and not all that interesting. Instead of giving you philosophical arguments on the merits of my opinion, I will give you an account of one person’s experience, my own.
The answer lies in your focused. My neighbor (Mel) is an accomplished woman and goes every day to a high-pressure job. She has far too many ailments for me to keep track of and battles every night to find sleep because of the pain. She is anything but Pollyannaish, so I found somewhat surprising that she has posted more than once on how she feels blessed. Some of the main sources of her gratitude were her dogs, family and friends. I am guessing Tom should be first, but the order listed may be correct. I have never talked to her about it, so it is mere conjecture. As long has we’re guessing, I’m thinking she understands both how important and how hard it can be to direct or perhaps redirect would be more accurate, your focus. The same would be true of my neighbor Cookie who is battling cancer. The act of writing for me is a way to accomplish this goal as well as an act of discovery. I hope to learn something and maybe in some small way be changed by it. I have just now realized that I live on a somewhat unlucky block. Starting with the house on the top of the block: we got cancer, then Cookie/cancer, Mel & her ailments, then my house with my cancer, my wife’s arthritis, my son’s cp (cerebral palsy),next to me is my healthy daughter’s house, then the house on the corner, where the man suffered a terrible ladder accident. My block may be challenged on the health front, but not on the good neighbor front. So, I am happy to be living with my uniquely common, or should it be commonly unique neighbors? that appreciate the struggle and seldom struggle to understand the core meaning of good. I am not suggesting that suffering makes you good or is in itself good, only that it helped me recognize it and that is no small thing.
Anymore, my son’s life is not so much about pain and that is a good thing. It’s about trying to walk, move your hand to your mouth so you can feed yourself, to speak, to navigate his way through a world in which everything we do without thinking takes an extreme effort. To find his place. I have been at his side for this journey. I understand him, but not what it is like to be him. How can I really know what it is like to be him? Our experience in life is so different. I can tell you what I see, someone who fights long after I would have shouted, “no mas”. Someone who is happy and encourages others. These qualities make him easier and more pleasant to work with. I spend a lot of time with him and so does my wife. Parents and those who work with special needs kids, who by the way become young adults, know it will dramatically change your life. What it doesn’t do, at least for me and those who I think are good, is change their fundamental beliefs. In part because they see the person underneath the need more than the need itself. They have a core of expectations that allow for these differences. They give of themselves freely, often with little or no praise and never expecting it. Often embarrassed by it. My cynicism and disillusionment started years before my son was born. My son’s birth was the seed of enlightenment, the beginning of my ability to see the good. It was a skill that grew slowly. It was reinforced and given a boost by my encounter with cancer. I have my struggles, but more and more I am able to direct my focus on the good. When I do become overwhelmed my stay is shorter. I redirect quicker. Perhaps one day I will have eyes that see and ears that hear. So, in conclusion, I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. All I do know is that good people do not always get what they hoped for, or what they think is just, but they none the less they can see the good does exist. For me, at least to some degree, it is a matter of focus.