How good or bad something is centers on two primary influences…
The first influence is something we all have control over, and this relates to how we perceive everything we encounter in life. For example, you go to the local ice cream parlor and buy a double fudge sundae, because you like ice cream; this is something you perceive as good.
The second influence, ultimately is the final authority over what is good or bad, and unfortunately, it is a factor we are completely powerless to control…
This is time.
In the end, everything is truly is this simple. All that is good or bad in life is governed by how one perceives it at any given point and time.
As we reach adulthood you would think that we would become more accustomed to the fickle irrationality that time plays on how we see good or bad in our lives. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more confused and disillusioned we seem to get at the magnitude time impacts our lives.
In fact, when you objectively think about it, there is a measure of insanity inside us all that steers us into being largely incapable of ever truly appreciating what is “good,” much less being able to discern what is bad.
For example, a moment ago I mentioned that gobbling up that double fudge sundae was something you perceived as being good because you enjoyed ice cream. Well, fast forward to the future and now you’re sitting in your doctor’s office as your doctor tells you that you are overweight and have diabetes. By the way, your risk for falling to the number one cause of death in America, heart disease (not terrorism in case you didn’t know), just dramatically increased.
Suddenly, as you sit there, at in this moment, that past double fudge sundae doesn’t seem like such a good thing anymore. Damn was it good though…
Conversely, what seems to be bad can be viewed as being not just good but great, simply depending on what the future brings as a result. The abrupt end to a relationship may feel devastating and heartbreaking at the time, however, as you say “I do” on your wedding day to the love of your life you later met after the break-up, suddenly that once “devastating” event feels like the best thing that has ever happened to you.
And to think you thought I was crazy a moment ago. However, as you can see from just these two examples, what is good or bad in life really is just that simple. It all is a matter of time.
Now, as simple as it is in the vacuum of hypothetical or the vantage of retrospect, that measure of insanity inside us all rarely lets us perceive anything as being other than what it feels like in the moment. The madness of proximity we all suffer from can be called many things; however, the term that most people understand the inherent human lust for momentary satisfaction is... the human ego.
The human ego is what motivates human beings to think and act under entirely selfish motivations. The ego represents the primitive and animalistic side of humanity. Though commonly thought of as a bad thing, the human ego is not intrinsically evil. Rather, our egos are part of our being that drives our inclination towards survival.
The ego is an archaic remnant of a time when the idea of survival was very significant to human beings. However, the world we live in today is a much different place than the world of 32,000 B.C. In fact, the very thing that has allowed for human beings to not only survive but also thrive as long as we have is actually the opposite of ego... It is our consciousness.
Our consciousness is what gives us the capacity for abstract and complex thought. While our egos are inherently selfish and cause us to look inward, our consciousness is what causes us to be selfless and look outward. Our consciousness is what causes us to reach up towards the heavens and reach down to appreciate the ground beneath our feet.
It is our ego that causes separation, while our consciousness is what allows for connection.
Ultimately, the world we all live in today is an ideal environment for fostering ego-centrism. We live in a materialistic and superficial world, in which the value of individuals is measured by how much “stuff” they have. What that “stuff” is differs by culture or ethnicity, and it can be money, power, physical beauty, etc. Regardless, of what specific “stuff” a society places value on, the commonality is that it is always rooted in something that is outwardly apparent and intrinsically shallow.
One significant negative side-effect of living in an ego Petri dish is that it causes a great deal of strife between our inner duality of consciousness and ego; connection and disconnection.
One side of us seeks whatever is rewarding at the moment. While the other side views existence from a three-dimensional vantage, and considers the all-important influence of time from the perspective of the past, present, and future.
Now, our environment might be for the ego like gasoline to a fire, however, we all still have the capacity to consider our consciousness and de facto our connections.
The benefit of connection is that it allows one to suddenly recognize time from the point of view of how it binds every single event in our life together. Suddenly we discover that each point we are at any given moment is actually a result of something else that proceeded it. Good, bad, or ugly; if you removed any single moment of your past, your present would not be the same as it is now. Hence, everything is connected.
Once a person can see the interconnectivity within their own life, suddenly they will also be able to recount the number of times in which a moment felt bad or horrible, yet in the end, it turned out to be for the greater good. Assuredly, the opposite is equally true, when things go from good to bad. However, if you really consider it, you will likely see more examples of bad to good, than the inverse flow of emotion.
The tendency for our experiences to go from bad to good, and not good to bad, is helped by another simple attribute we all innately possess. We all desire to be happy.
Our yearning for happiness keeps us from ever suddenly being stuck in those perceptions of bad. Of course, the most significant aspect of why a person will not be able to see more examples of good to bad in their life, in reality, is because none of us are capable right now of making that determination.
It's simple… if you are reading this right now, you’re not out of time, and therefore you cannot actually conclude that any instance that right now seems bad, is not one that simply hasn’t flipped for the good YET.
If life was a book, the chapter on 2016 likely would be titled, “The Election.” Conversely, the title of 2017 likely would be summed up as, “The Worst.”
In 2017, we saw “the worst” flooding; “the worst” hurricanes; “the worst” wildfires; “the worst” mass shooting; “the worst” that politics has to offer; “the worst” sexually degrading and misogynistic possible; “the worst” instances of racism… the list goes on.
Now, as much as 2017 was the year of “The Worst,” I have to ask, does “the worst” still equate to being bad?
In my opinion, that answer not only can be but is, NO…
For me, one tale tail sign that 2017’s “The Worst” doesn’t equal bad comes from a recent poll published by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, on American’s New Year’s Resolutions. Topping the Marist poll for most popular 2018 resolution by respondents was, “Being a better person.”
For the Marist Poll, this was a dramatic shift from the responses of the past decade, in which “Lose weight” held the top spot for 90% of the polls. Essentially, for all of 2017’s worst, the outcome seems to be that more people actually want to be better.
As bad as 2017 may have seemed at times, I challenge people to consider that in actuality 2017, wasn’t really all that bad at all. In fact, it was in fact really good.
“Wait for a second! You just said 2017 was the year of “The Worst,” now you’re saying its “The Best.”
No… I’m saying it wasn’t ever “The Worst” to begin with.
During the past year, we all may have experienced times that felt “bad.” However; in the long run, they may just prove to be good.
For starters, kicking out all of “The Worst” natural disasters that are beyond human control, when it comes to the social worst, it is actually is a very good thing that we recognize the not-good in the many things we’ve seen. Essentially, when people can strive to “be a better person” in 2018 or even recognize something to be socially “The Worst,” then society, civilization, and humanity aren’t broken.
We all haven’t suddenly lost all discernible ability to recognize right from wrong; ethical from unethical; immoral from moral.
If we can differentiate “The Worst” in human behavior, then that means we equally can still recognize what it means to behave as “The Best.”
There is another significant reason why “The Worst” of 2017 actually was not bad, but good.
In order for any person to desire to improve and be better, they must first recognize there is a problem.
Consider back to that double fudge sundae we enjoyed years ago. At the time, we had no desire to not want to eat the sundae. We liked ice cream…we ate it… it felt good…
It wasn’t until time passed and we found ourselves sitting in doctors office facing diabetes and crinkling up our nose in the mirror at ourselves did we suddenly that double hot fudge sundae not feel so good.
Suddenly, we find ourselves in one of those predicaments in which good has turned to bad. But wait… remember we’re not done just yet.
We have two options now that we find ourselves in a bad situation with our health. We can lay down on the floor and just wait for God to come and take us. Or we can suddenly realize that now we have enough desire to want to eat more healthy, exercise, and maybe skip that double hot fudge sundae.
Now, say you pick the latter of those two choices, and as a result, you not only become healthier, lose weight, and feel better, you also suddenly add more years to your life than you might have had before- More importantly, more happy years of life.
Suddenly like magic, your life has gone from good-bad- to better. All it ever really took was the willingness or desire. Essentially, you had to feel unhealthy or overweight, in order to want to make choices that could lead you to be healthier and lose weight.
You had to experience the bad in order to want the better and not settle for the good.
For a lot of people, the desire to be better came from proverbially looking in the mirror and seeing how bad we can become. We had become so ego-centric, so disconnected, that the individuals we had elected to lead us politically, the persons who we had elevated to the rank of being celebrities or celebrated social figures, turned out to be themselves bad.
Essentially, our society’s public face, our communal spokespersons turned out to be a bunch of shit bags. Suddenly, we have to ask ourselves, does that mean that mean that we too are a shit bags? Is not being a shit bag, categorically not a good thing?
Where it stands now, the last few pages of 2017 are just in front of us. As we begin chapter 2018 we have an opportunity to recognize that we have far more control over how good or bad not only our future can be, but also what our past was.
Whether or not 2017 will stand the test of time as being recorded as “The Worst” or eventually “The Best,” and if 2018 will become the year of “Better” ultimately depends on the strength and direction of our desires.
Research has shown that we are all are born with some innate sense of morality, fairness, and sensitivity to the suffering of others. Yet, our moral complexity often comes from our disconnections and how we rank values in life differently. Additionally, none of us are saints and therefore we all must balance our ego and consciousness by trade-offs in outcomes produced.
We all must make trade-offs in life that may go against our personal thoughts, desires, and beliefs. However, we all must measure these trade-offs by the details of their individual merit and the outcomes they produce.
If we are only making trade-offs for our own benefit and disadvantaging others then we are not truly acting morally righteous. Instead, we are being controlled by our ego’s and falling victim to being satisfied in the moment at the risk of falling in the future. In fact, virtually every “bad” of 2017’s “The Worst” can be traced back to ego-driven decisions that were self-satisfying in the moment, yet ended up feeling worse as time passed.
Essentially, “The Worst” always is the outcome of ego-based decisions.
At the end of the day, the determination of how much of a good person we are is based on how much we desire, seek, and recognize our conscious connections and reject our individual disconnection.
When we see the connections, we recognize the relationship that time plays in our lives and how it is the master of what is eventually good or bad. Additionally, through connections, we see the powerful influence we all have in our existence and thus understand that our true conscious sense of morality is rooted in the understanding that every single human being is created equal and therefore is equally deserving of fair treatment and respect.
When we see life as being inclusively connected, and not disconnected, we eventually find ourselves less likely to desire to make ego based choices that represent fleeting moments of goodness in time. We become the masters of good and bad in our lives.
In a few days, the ball will drop and 2018 will arrive. Recognize, this isn’t merely just an event in which for the next few weeks you’ll be scribbling out 7’s and making them 8’s. Rather, it is representative of the ultimate judge of good and bad in our lives. We cannot control it. We cannot stop it. Yet, we can desire to work harmoniously with time.
By having the desire to work harmoniously with time we appreciate its connection to our lives and assist it in rejecting the “bad” of our past and turning it into good for our present and future.
Just like the big countdown at 11:59.50 on December 31st, each of those last ticking seconds is merely just a passage of time, that which falls into each second, is not inherently good or bad. Instead, the real measurement of good or bad only comes when the ball finally drops.
The final question we must all ask ourselves is who do we want to be, and where do we want to be the moment the ball finally drops? Until then... we always still have time.