Friday, February 07, 2020

My Weekend Crush

SPOILERS: If you haven’t watched the finale of “The Good Place,” seriously what is wrong with you? But also you should stop reading. Also, sorry, for whatever reason SAP is turned on in the above scene. But, you know, it’s still beautiful beyond words – even with a few extra words thrown in.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the final episode of “The Good Place” since it aired. I watched it again immediately afterward, and cried just as much – possible even more. What a beautiful, hilarious and profound way to end four gloriously oddball seasons of television.

I’ve always been a practical person, not regularly beset by bouts of existential dread or philosophical musings. But over the years, and particularly in the last four years, I’ve started pondering more and more about the nature of human goodness. As in, is goodness inherently human or must it be taught and nurtured?

“The Good Place” comes down firmly on the side of the latter. It posits that human existence is so complex and fraught with so many moral pitfalls – both large and small – that it is nearly impossible to live up to our own standards or really almost any standard. But we all have the best chance of being good if we have friends and family who make us feel loved and supported and who work to bring out the best in us.

The other great message of “The Good Place” – besides that you should never buy the supplemental insurance when renting a car – is that life only has meaning because it ends. Indeed, endings give meaning to almost everything in existence. A great book. A great TV show. A great life. That we are here a finite period of time is the essence of humanity. We are born, we live, we die – always in that order.

What we do in that period of time, how we choose to spend our life, that’s what makes the difference. I don’t believe there is one right way to be a good person. And being good should not be conflated with being nice or polite or courteous. You can curse, you can swear, you can protest, you can even be rude at times and still be a good person. Just like you can be the most polite-in-person human on the planet, but that doesn’t inherently make you good.

In fact, niceness is used in many ways to mask actual harm. We should strive to all be civil to one another. But civility does not mean feigning outrage at, say, a woman tearing up of piece of paper instead being outraged by a man who puts children in cages, rips families apart, bans all people from 13 countries just because they’re Muslim, continues to roll back LGBTQ rights and protections, fills his own pockets with taxpayer money to go golfing and has literally been impeached. But I digress.

I believe the bedrock of human goodness should be compassion. It’s the ability to think beyond yourself, even beyond just your family. It’s our capacity for kindness.

Compassion is what is missing from so much of our current political discourse. Well, that and the truth – particularly from our so-called president and his bootlicking Republican co-conspirators. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve woken, unable to fall back asleep, and started to think about why so many people would embrace and vote for such a truly selfish, obviously narcissistic, endlessly corrupt and deeply hateful human being.

These are people who get up in the morning, kiss their families, go to work, pet their dogs and at least on the surface would seem perfectly pleasant (though definitely not all of them). Yet they vote in a way so diametrically opposed to being compassionate to their fellow humans and, in many cases, diametrically opposed to their own betterment. It boggles the mind.

The older I get, the more personal politics becomes. Instead of growing more conservative, as is the conventional wisdom of a political lifecycle, I’ve become more progressive precisely because I take it so personally. But then it is always personal to marginalized people, as a matter of basic survival. Yet so many have the privilege to consider their politics “nothing personal.”

As I’ve gotten older I’ve also come to the conclusion that money truly is the root of all evil. This is not to say that all rich people are evil. And, believe you me, I’d love some more money. But the pursuit of money, above all else, should be considered evil. It leads to the granting of personhood to corporations, whose only motivation is the hoarding of more money. It leads to the exploitation of our resources, workers and the whole damn planet.

And perhaps money’s most insidious effect is how it insulates us from our fellow humans. The more money you have, the further from any suffering you can live, the less you care about the suffering of others. If you have money and your life is good, but your neighbor is poor and her life is bad – well, who cares. Again, your life is good.

I’m not advocating for the ends of money and wholesale realigning our societal structure per se. But you have to wonder, how long the unchecked greed of late-stage capitalism can continue until there’s nothing left?

If, as “The Good Place” suggests, time with the people we love is the true heaven, then money’s only true function and use should be to give us more of that – all of us.

I don’t know. The world is a lot sometimes. The bad seems to endlessly triumph over the good. But in the end, no matter how much money we have or how much good or bad we’ve done, we are all just water and stardust. And, if only we have the will and guidance to try to care – endless kindness. Thanks for letting me ruminate on existence with you, and thank you all for reading these past 14 years. It means more to me than anything money could buy. Happy weekend, all.


Helena said...

Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing , your sense of compassion shines through in your work. Have a good weekend and sending you love and hugs from South Africa xx

Jen said...

Where's the like button when you need it? Beautiful, as always.

Anonymous said...

I question the nature of good and evil a lot, also, especially when someone who is 37yo and doing amazing things for others dies, and other people live to a ripe old age, repeatedly hurting others. It makes my heart ache and my head hurt, and I just want to stay in bed for a week. But hopefully, if we all can try and keep our hearts open and do something kind every day, we will will eventually win out. It's a long, long road though, but having likeminded people such as you and friends and family, makes it a little easier. Have a great, peaceful weekend!

Carmen SanDiego said...

No,thank YOU for these 14 years and countless tank top and great media recommendations
Ready for the Surrenders quinceanera

Carmen SanDiego said...

That wave image was beautiful
I’m gonna miss the smartest show in television
Thank you for sharing that and also for recommending it in the first place

Juli said...

I've never seen this TV show, but thank you for your words - they are just what I needed today.

donnan33ly said...

This post, really the essence of you, is why i have followed you nearly everyday for your 14 years of creating for us. a most deeply felt thank you from me.

Hazel said...

Thank you.