Posted by Will Quist
Sitting in a bar at the Reno Airport, internalizing the relationship between God and good – seemingly not the ideal location to ponder the question at hand. Popular opinion would probably be very little exists in any of airports, bars, or Reno – let alone in the combination of those three. Until the slot machine 50 feet away started coughing up coins and it hit me – that guy probably thinks that things in here are pretty good. And that’s when I realized that this actually might be the perfect setting to inform this debate…
When the topic and question were first posed, I was at a loss. Feeling severely under-powered intellectually (the preceding posts have done nothing to quell those fears, but I plow onwards), I was worried that I was missing something in the approach to the question. I couldn’t seem to get past the fact that good seems so subjective and God seems so subjective, how could one be a precedent condition for the other? It had to be more complicated. But the more time I spent with it, I realized that it really might be just that simple…
On the flight into Reno I was reading George Leonard’s book on the way of Aikido (side note: I highly recommend reading his works, and don’t be surprised to see me in an Aikido class soon). Aikido is fascinating on so many levels, but at its core is maintaining your calm and composure to use the energy of others to not only thwart attacks, but see the world from your opponents perspectives – if only for a split second – and then use the energy and perspective to make an optimal move. Essentially, Aikido breaks all interactions in an effort to gain as much context as possible in order to better understand those around you and to better make optimal movements. Implicit in that we do not all view the world the same way. There is no universal point of view.
For those following along, I am sure early essays are now beginning to resonate. Things, life, existence are purely a matter of context. Some people may feel that designated hitters, a low payroll, and an early playoff exit are “good” baseball. Those on the right side of the Bay may not see the “good’ in that through our World Series parade (okay, literally the left side of the bay – but, I guess that is also a matter of context – I am not sure who would be the east bay if South Americans had drawn the first maps). “Things” are not so much defined by what they innately are, as much as they are defined by the context in which they exist. It is not debatable that my version of “Good” – whether that is food, movies, or morals – is going to differ from someone who grew up in another household, let alone across the globe. The context gained from our unique situations leaves us all defining the same things in drastically different ways.
The basis for our individual context is largely the combination of small dose of individual experience combined with a heavy influence of social norms. Those norms are largely driven by the social conventions and institutions within which we each exist. Now, this is where I undermine myself again by poaching from another earlier essay. These social conventions and institutions all have their roots in the “Great Other”. Arguably, God, in all His / Her / Their myriad forms, forms the basis for a large number of these constructs we all live in that dictate a large portion of context. But not all. This is the second point where I encroach on earlier arguments. Not all social constructs, conventions which drive the context we use to understand the world, are built on the back of God, however believers believe in that being. And therein lies the fault with the premise.
God, undoubtedly, has formed the backbone of the belief systems for a large number in the world, and those belief systems drive context for a large number of people, which in turn does define good for a great many people– making it easy to make the leap to God’s existence being a precedent for good.
Good, and almost anything really, can exist independent of my feelings on the subject. Just ask the guy who is $500 richer for playing slots on his way to somewhere Southwest flies. That is the beauty of humanity, but also the difficulty with finding God as a precedent for our subjective experiences.
Leave a comment and/or proceed to post #7: Good For Me vs. Good For We