Live and Let Live

Quarter of eight.

On my way to market I stumbled over a pair of mallard ducks on Fremont Avenue. It was raining a little, flooding out the earthworms, in turn attracting the birds that feed on them. If I’d had some bread, I would have given it to the ducks, but all I could do was admire them… Once again I’ve read an attitude from someone that goes on the moral warpath. But the reason we have morality is not for condemnation of other people, nor of ourselves. I guess I’m just a pacifist, but even Jesus says we should love our enemies and everyone else besides. He says to the accusers of the adulteress, “Whoever is without sin among you, throw the first stone at her.” And because none of them is innocent, they can’t do this. It’s a simple concept called hypocrisy, yet a lot of people don’t get it. Nobody has the right to feel judgmental towards their neighbors. Those who live in glass houses mustn’t throw stones. I’ve always liked the quote from Spinoza as follows: “Things are not more or less perfect according as they delight or offend human senses…” It is not for human beings to judge the rightness or wrongness of their fellows. And when we do sentence a person for a crime, it is without a sense of moral outrage, disgust, and so on. 

Zealots

Ten o’clock.

Not sure how I’m feeling so far today. I know I’m dreading my dental appointment Tuesday morning, but I’ve delayed it long enough. The weather is cloudy and very plain. I can’t believe it’s only ten in the morning or that it’s the first day of spring. I considered reading some Eugene O’Neill again, except he’s very moralistic even though he was an alcoholic and absurd for that reason. His whole shtick was finger pointing to foist attention from his own faults; to judge others before he could be judged. I have a family member or two who do the same stuff, and are totally unaware of their illogic. Blame and accusations are easy to dish out but so hard to take from people; yet you know that it’s not your problem when a person rips into you out of nowhere. The guiltiest people are the most rabid accusers. This is probably why we love to watch yellow journalism that panders to our sense of moral outrage. My ex supervisor would have killed to be summoned to jury duty, but it’s a very good thing he never was. He was the type for getting on a soapbox and spouting nonsense, flagrant contradictions that he didn’t seem to notice. I think the best approach to ethics is to keep quiet altogether, so now the post I’ve just made is disposable. You can read it once and forget about it after you’re done. 

Glass Houses

Eight thirty five.

Visibility is poor from the thick fog outdoors, but I made it to the store okay. It was only 27 degrees. I asked Suk about Michelle: she’ll be back on Valentine’s Day, though he’s not pushing her… Another blogger’s attitude got me thinking about moralism and the hypocrisy of judging and prescribing for other people. It’s always better to describe than to dictate to people what you believe is good for them. But it’s a fine line, and it’s easy to make yourself absurd by just saying something. Every moralist runs the risk of hypocrisy. “Whoever is sinless among you, throw the first stone.” I like to think that I’ve outgrown the impulse to moralize. However, even to make a statement like this throws a rock, and my glass house will be vulnerable to attack. 

Is Anybody Immune?

It was gray and cloudy all day here with an occasional shower. At some point today I lost my concentration and decided to take a nap. I had a couple of things on my mind that worried me about whether I was a good person or not. Probably the hardest thing for anybody to live with is other people’s judgment and criticism of ourselves. So I dug out my book of Albert Camus and considered reading some of it. It’s been a long time since I read The Fall, and I never did read all of The Plague. I think it’s John 8:7 where Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, throw the first stone at her,” and the accusers of the adulteress exit the room because not one of them is innocent. Camus picks up this idea and elaborates on it in The Fall, but he doesn’t incorporate the element of the supernatural. Many people get some inspiration from reading Camus. He shares a few interests with Dostoevsky, mostly crime and guilt. 

My brother’s interpretation of the Bible turned a great deal upon the idea of judging and being judged by others, but unfortunately he himself was very critical of everyone else. He also gathered from the Bible that love is sacrifice. Probably he read the whole book like a continuous novel, which actually makes good sense. When I lent him my original copy of The Fall about eleven years ago, he never read it, and he misplaced it somewhere and I didn’t see it again.

I remember many times seeing my ex supervisor getting on a soapbox and preaching the most absurd stuff; absurd because he was guilty of the same thing, or something very similar, and he didn’t even realize his stupidity. But I should go easier on him. He was positive for HIV and he spent eight years as a meth addict. It was amazing that he could get up and go to work every day. I didn’t like him very much, but he was only my boss, and our jobs threw us together by random chance.

There’s probably a lesson in this letter somewhere.

Predawn Blues

Five twenty five.

The opossum under the house is making a big ruckus. He will quiet down after sunup. Aesop just jumped off the bed and came down the hall to be with me. “And the animals I’ve trapped have all become my pets / Something in the way…” I didn’t have any plans for today except my daily shopping trip. My sleeping cycle is erratic yet it’s been the same way for four years now. I’ll do four hours here and another four hours there, in windows of time. Maybe it was the word “windows” that reminded me of a painting by Winslow Homer used to illustrate Huckleberry Finn. This image just popped up to my mind. It shows two boys eating watermelon outdoors. I guess I’m still rather sleepy. Another thought is how judgmental my brother used to be of me; but people with problems tend to be the most zealous accusers of others. He must have a guilty conscience the size of a house from having lied and cheated his way through life.

I might go back to bed because it’s dark outside and nobody is awake right now, technically not even me. There are many kinds of self referential absurdity, pointed out to us by the Bible and by Shakespeare. The phrase, “the pot calling the kettle black” is from Don Quixote. My own conscience is cumbersome today, but the problems I have are not my fault. Maybe it’s possible to exculpate everyone with a mental health diagnosis. In that case, church ministers would be out of a job as well as some kinds of counselors. Why do we even have ethics in everyday life? In his state of melancholy, Hamlet says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And it’s still another hour until daylight… 

Holier than Thou

Eight ten.

It might be interesting when I go to the store this morning. People of color are coming out more since the election. The weather is rather blah right now. I have to go load up with dog food. My sister still has racist feelings that she can’t overcome, and this is embarrassing to me. Also she hates homeless people. I’m just thankful I have a home…

Nine thirty. I’m home again and I’ve fed Aesop. I spoke with Karen for a minute, after a hiatus of a week. The election had been a source of division to us, but we should be able to heal the breach. Something I realize is that it’s a mistake to personalize differences with other people. This was the main problem in my relationship with my sister. I admit that I still struggle with personalization, taking offense over disagreements, feeling judged or criticized. I think we were both inclined to do this. My temper flares when I imagine her middle son playing the moralist in his job of park ranger. What makes him holier than everybody else? He’s a drunkard, for crying out loud. Hypocrisy is a form of ignorance. But why do I allow it to get my goat? In my experience, guilty people make the most outspoken moralists in the world. Seeking personal happiness is great, but going around pointing the finger and telling people what they can’t do is very hard to tolerate. It’s absurd. I believe in maximizing pleasure for everybody. A moralist is someone who denies people what makes them happy in the interest of safety. But often the moralist himself has a major foible, and this motivates his preaching to others. He needs to remove the plank from his own eye and stop throwing stones… And the best I can do is just avoid talking with him. It’s no use arguing with an idiot. All I want is my own happiness and the greatest happiness for all people.