From "Connected (with Abe + Isaac) — Volume 7"

“That which you consider to be good”

I was listening to someone speak last week, and they used this expression. It wasn’t the first time, in retrospect, but this was the first time that I paid attention to it.

These words are disarming to me. Particularly in the political climate of the moment. Not “good”, but, “that which you consider to be good.”

Intellectual exercise: let’s reframe “good” and “bad” as intrinsic preferences. This isn’t about morality, yet – let’s just replace these concepts with the idea that some people just innately prefer one thing, and others another.

What does this mean? If we’re just honest about our preferences, and active in steering towards what we prefer, it means a natural structure arises. Nothing pre-defined, nothing prescriptive – it’s just natural that people who prefer to steer the canoe will end up in the back, and those who don’t will sit in the front. (Thank you, rural childhood, for this most unloaded of metaphors. 🙏) And with enough people sorted into each camp, we might then evolve a system for making sure that back-o’-the-canoe-dwellers have an understood way to match up with front-o’-the-canoe-’ers.

Now, let’s make this about morality.

At some level, it’s obvious that opposing definitions of moral good also yield natural structure. You at odds with the king? Go start your own kingdom. I’m simplifying, but the point holds: history (and nature) is full of rebellion/dissent/disagreement resulting in populations fracturing into factions. And maybe they’re actively in opposition for a few generations, and maybe a little later they remember that trade is useful, and maybe later enough folks have moved back and forth and invented their own new ideas that the original boundaries serve everyone a little less well. And then, maybe, someone has a new forbidden idea and it all happens again.

What if we looked at our most fervently held ideas of good and bad, and thought of them as hints for structure?

When mutual resistance is felt, when it feels like two groups are pushing up against each other, trying to get past the other to some place over there, … what if we just got out of each other’s way? And accepted, without angst or rancor, that those folks over there just genuinely prefer something totally different? What if we each just dropped the resistance, lost the friction, and slipped by each other? I strongly suspect that, in getting out of each other’s way on the way to where we want to be, we’d each find room enough for what we wanted.

This only works if we can stomach the idea that I can enjoy my own intrinsic definition of good over here, while you enjoy your possibly-totally-different intrinsic definition of good over there. That’s a must. And if I’m being honest, this idea is absolutely found in my own intrinsic definition of good. We were already being pretty abstract, but here we find the pattern addressing itself: there are people for whom this idea does not work. And here, too, we find hints for structure, structure without judgement. Like, if we don’t agree on this, we probably shouldn’t date. And if there are enough of us on each side, maybe we should have our own countries.

My good is not necessarily opposed to yours. Genuine incompatibility results in structure.

I offer this concept as something purposefully a little abstract, an idea to roll around in your head, to keep with you as you go through your day. When an ideological clash seems inescapable, consider this: maybe those who believe the toilet paper roll should hang on the wall side should use that bathroom, and everyone who is correct (kidding) should use the other one. Consider re-visualizing all that friction as a smooth, slippery surface, allowing the natural structure suggested to just pop into place, in accordance with the energies at play. There’s always a place for everything. There’s always space.

So. I think that the moment where you can’t bear to push against, any longer, is an invitation. And it may not require both sides seeing this at once. Perhaps you can stop pushing, and perhaps you can slip on by, on to that which you consider to be good. You might have to leave something behind – but then, you already left your resistance, yeah? And if your identity can handle that, then you’ve successfully identified with your good, instead of with your anti-bad. Which means that, as you go, you are already carrying your self, which means that you have everything you need. You’ll be okay. :)

The days are full, and good. :) We are learning the practice of emotional autonomy. Not to be separate, but to be at the ready with our own fullness, in all places and all times. Starting to figure it out. :)

Be well, from that wellspring (pun intended) you carry within.

Originally sent out via email

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