Revisiting Timshel -
The echoes of Dr. MLK are reverberating in my head like crazy, right now. There were speeches on NPR, quotes abound and a mess-load of tweets to that effect (myself included). There's all the stuff about "dreams" and "injustice", but let me pass at those and defer to wiser men, but instead elaborate on a line of thinking more accessible to those in our generation.
There are many quotes, from many people in fact, that equate to this basic idea: there are two kinds of malfeasance in human affairs (and I mean malfeasance in the strongest sense) - 1) when bad men do great evil, and, 2) when good men see evil and are silent or do nothing. Both are offensive, immoral and in some cases criminal. The latter is also an embarassing travesty.
We know that when bad men do evil it's an atrocity. There are many men who do this, but I think it only the sort of affairs for impotent men who must consciously be wicked to make any gains or profits. Let's set this aside, we all know that it's wrong.
Now, there are two options for good men - do something or not do something to conquer evin. Similar to the aforementioned scenario, let's set aside the decision for good men to do nothing. It's just as immoral as doing evil, except more regrettable for the agent.
But, take the more textured case of good men doing SOMETHING. There are at least two manners in which good men can do something, depending on whether they are opportunist or if they are sincere.
The opportunist seizes power to act, and probably accomplishes some good. In fact, they may accomplish the most good as far as outcomes go. The way they accomplish those ends, however may not justify the means. They may exploit some to benefit others. They may be arrogant or greedy. They may seize power because they can, not because they have earned it or have pure intentions. Good men often have power, but still abuse it.
The other route is that of humility and sincerity, which is ultimately the route that few men (seem to) choose. It is a hard one. Nice guys, after all, finish last. But, this route is ultimately the route we must take or at least try to take - for the sake of our friends, families, country men and fellow world citizens. To truly serve humanity, one must not pursue power, the world's recognition nor the applause of men. One must instead put the cause and others ahead of themselves - they must strive to have their conscience untroubled by remorse for past action or regret for missing opportunity to help others. They must be pure of heart. If they do not, the data and logic suggest that they will become wicked.
For those that we trust with our lives, with our families and the ability influence us, I pray that they have taken the noble path, even though they are powerful enough to amass fortunes and power for themselves, their families and their entourages. Because if they have not, we are surely endowed with a future of imperfection - and to lift an idea from the story of Adam and Eve - a future of original sin.
On this topic, I have been reflecting much on a concept from one of my all-time favorite books - East of Eden. There is a concept that is at the crux of the narrative - timshel. It's the idea that we're not compelled nor guaranteed to conquer sin - we "MAYest" conquer sin. We have the ability to, it's our choice.
We have to, if we do not, I do not see any other outcome but the perpetuation of suffering and triumphing over good. That's not something my mind, body and soul will tolerate.
I try to take the "virtuous path" so to speak, but it's incredibly difficult. There are weak minded people that you can either dupe, mystify or coerce into doing what you want...really easily. This goes for everything from phishing them out of $5000 or taking advantage of them at a bar and bedding them. The moral choices we make on a daily basis could fill an infinite scroll every day. We have many opportunities to practice timshel.
There are days when I want to throw this virtuous path to the birds. But I cannot, and if you are considering it, you cannot either. I (and I'm sure you have as well) have made a commitment, promise or oath to uphold what's right and reject what is not - no matter how tempting. I need your help to succeed and I will also provide it, we must all be eachother's keepers in this effort.
Many great men have failed in this effort, but we must not. If one of us collapses others also will. And, if we get to a certain threshold or collapsing principle, I really believe that humanity will be doomed.
So to summarize MLKs echoes from the day - it's not good enough to just do "something" or "speak", one must also do what's right.
This is all really preachy and somewhat narcissistic, I know. I really feel strongly about this though. I think the world really does hang in the balance when it comes to good people choosing to do what's right or not do what's right.
Alas, I am hopeful. Because there are many good men in the world. It is our choice whether we will try to be pure of heart, mind and soul and choose that path.