27 April 2010

Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It

Two of my students are either involved with each other or flirting around each other, and it's quite charming to watch. I approve of love: as an entity, particularly an entity newly springing into being, it's hard to resent.

Somehow connected to this, a friend has recently been troubled about...well, I think "about behaviour" might be the best way to put it. Although I guess it's about romantic and sexual behaviour in particular, I think it might really be about that giant and ever-looming question, "Should I be a good person?" and its corollary, "What does that mean, anyway?"

I'm not sure what it means to be a good person, or what it means to be a moral person. I don't tend to do terribly well with morality, but I do very well with principles. I'm not much interested in questions of good and bad (morality), but I'm quite interested in questions of right and wrong, because right and wrong seem easier to sort out: if something is right, I know it when I check inside myself. But perhaps that just substitutes "right" for "good," as many things I think of as "right" are probably what other people would think of as "good."

It doesn't seem to me that you are "good" or "bad" because you behave in certain sexual ways. But it does seem to me that you are happy or unhappy, and that you are able to think about what might make someone else happy or unhappy, and that things that produce happiness are right (although not necessarily good!), while those that don't are wrong. Cheating on your boyfriend: wrong, not for moral reasons, but because it will make someone else unhappy. Being promiscuous: right, if it makes you happy; wrong, if it makes you or the other participants unhappy. It seems to me that a lot of the behaviour my friend considers good isn't really good, but it is really geared to making you happier: sex is generally better with someone you know, so random pick-ups probably make you unhappier than waiting for someone you know and like, even if the happiness is simply the happiness of having a richer sexual experience. Doing stuff because you don't really care one way or the other doesn't make you unhappier, but it doesn't increase your happiness, so why bother?

I don't know. I have tried almost all my adult life to be a good person - I realise that this sort of clashes with what I said above, but when I say "good" here I mean, I have tried to do the right thing; I have tried not to hurt people; I have behaved sensibly; I have tried to be honourable and decent (I have done many things I am sorry for, too, although few I regret, and I certainly don't regret any of my sexual behaviour) - but I do not see this making me any happier than if I had been a "bad" person. And I don't see "bad" people - people who don't think before they act; people who don't care about being decent - being any unhappier than "good" ones. For a long time I believed that if I was good life would bring me a reward: essentially, I believed in some form of God or divine balancer. Now this is a belief I cannot shake, but I know it's not true. Now, with my hands bloody with the Mr. Heaven I can't wash off, I believe that being a good person makes you less happy than being a bad person, because good people think more, and thinking and being able to access your emotions is what makes you unhappy (I believed that before him, too, but not while). And I am unhappier knowing this than I would have been if I'd never tried to be a good person.

I asked S.A. if men prefer good girls, and he said, quite rightly and sensibly, that the girl preferred depends on the man preferring. On a similar note, I'd say that troubling over whether to be good or not is only worth it if you're troubled by your lack of what you perceive as goodness. There's little point in trying to conform to cultural morality; it'll never fit you. You can only ever feel comfortable in your own morality (or your own principles!). I should imagine that there are plenty of men out there who are delighted to sleep with bad girls; you needn't go good because you think it'll get you more tail. Indeed, I daresay quite the opposite is true. But you ought to try to be good if it feels right to you (a-ha! see how that worked out?). Because what's right is what's decent (although the reverse is not necessarily true), and what's decent is what's good.

1 comment:

Incubus said...

I think that nobody, and when I say nobody, I really mean NOBODY, is free from self-moral judgement, unless the person is an autist or a serial killer. And this individual moral is strongly related to "common-sense moral". Being so, the person for sure knows that he/she is behaving "badly". That he/she is cheating someone, or stoling something, or doing some harm. And this feeling ultimately ends in some form of misery, even if the person negates it rationally, or try purposely to behave "against the established moral". The person will tend to behave (or think) in some sort of autodestructive way, because very very deep inside he/she believes that there must be some punishment. So, in the end you don´t need any God, or any divine intervention to find "good" people happier than "bad" people. Chances are great that, in overall, you are probably happier being "good", even if sometimes you might think otherwise.