Sunday, April 06, 2008

Believing and Doing

In writing about the importance of upholding one's convictions (see February 22), I neglected to mention those who, perhaps simply bored by the curlicues of creeds and ideologies, lead quiet kindly lives for seemingly no good reason, or for reasons they find obvious.

Always a philosophical Torquemada, I'm not one of them. In fact, I instantly suspect anyone who seems to be one. ("Hmm ... I wonder what she meant by 'Have a good day!' ")

My assumption, my philosophy, my observation, my life have all led me to conclude that the homo sapiens is quintessentially selfish. Spiro Agnew worked for bribes, GIs go to Iraq for lack of better job prospects and even Mother Theresa worked with the poor and sick of Calcutta just to get her own cloud and harp up by the Pearly Gates.

We're a "what's in it for me?" species. Beliefs are usually little more than idealized versions of who we might like to be if it were only convenient enough. Or a justification for the way we are.

Think of the wars of religion. Think, if you are familiar with the religious world, of the continuing strife between fellow believers in almost any tradition.

On the other hand, consider the attentive person who notices that the host's dishes need doing or that the young mother needs someone to look after her two-year-old for a while or that the unique blood type needs to be shared.

Simple things, all -- perhaps worth focusing on to a greater extent than the reasons that might justify them.
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