Driving on the highway this morning, I had a moment when I was surrounded on all sides by “extended cab” this and “Hemi engine” that, my tiny car dwarfed by these speeding vessels of testosterone.
I thought, “Well, it could be worse. I could be driving a Suburban.”
And of course it could be worse. But couldn’t it always be worse? Couldn’t any person, no matter how unethically and thoughtlessly he lives his life, find a shining example of something Worse? I suspect this type of comparison, this ‘keeping down with the Joneses’, isn’t terribly productive. Shouldn’t I, surrounded by no less than six foreign-oil-hogging, baby-seal-killing monster trucks, feel compelled to do my part to offset their effects?
Isn’t it true that “radical” compassion is required to counteract this sort of “radical” selfishness (ironically derided by the very people who create its necessity)?
Loosely related: I came up with a new philosophy a few days ago. Actually, I’m pretty sure that I stole it from the Girl Scouts but they probably won’t mind. I’m really big on having a guiding principle that helps inform my daily ethical decisions (and every decision has an ethical dimension when you live inside my crazy little head).
Anyway, my old philosophy was: “Do all things out of love.” That’s a pretty good one and it’s helped me through some sticky situations but there’s a lot of room for loopholes there, I think. For one thing, people do some pretty messed up shit “out of love” whether it be love for their children, love for their country, or love for their god(s). And what happens when you have love for multiple, oppositional forces? How do you choose which love is purest?
So here’s my new philosophy, which I think is better (and which I stole from the Girl Scouts, who are makers of delicious cookies as well as wise adages): “Leave it better than you found it.”
I like this one because it’s pretty straightforward and I think it’s widely applicable. I mean, it’s a bit much to say “Leave this world better than you found it” because, at the end of the day, how do I tally up all my petty crimes and pure intentions? How do I calculate the sum of all my selfish acts and my labors of love? I’d hope the grand total falls on the side of Good but it’s tough to keep track.
Instead, I prefer the idea of, like, you go in the break room at work and somebody spilled some coffee and you’re not the one who spilled it but you clean it up anyway.
And maybe you go to the grocery store and someone left their shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot and you’re not going to use it but you take it up with you just because.
And you take a walk in the park and maybe you didn’t go around with a trash bag and pick up every stray McDonalds bag but you see a candy bar wrapper next to the trash can and you throw it away just because you can.
Leave it better than you found it.
Maybe you eat less factory-farmed food. Maybe you drive less and take the bus more. Maybe you start a non-profit or maybe you join one. Maybe you’re a good mom to some cool ass kid who’s gonna make the world a better place. Maybe you do nice things for strangers. Maybe you give food to homeless folks sometimes and adopt a mutt from the pound and donate your old clothes and call your grandma on her birthday and don’t honk your horn at people so much. Maybe you recycle. Maybe you smile at people.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all did this all the time?
It would be pretty sweet, that’s what.