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A little while ago I started writing on my blog again (or just writing again in general, really—and it happened to be here), and I was writing about writing about righteousness and self-righteousness.—what I “would” want to discuss (as if saying that I would say it is different from just plain saying it—it technically is, but maybe not actually; actually maybe it is just manipulative—but actually how do you express something with the awareness of how it can be perceived without doing that?—have I lost you yet?). 

But yes it is time to reflect upon that hardly edited reflection. 

I was trying to criticize myself about my righteousness being negative—that righteousness is about being right (or as I clarify later, doing right), rather than just merely not being wrong or not doing wrong. You can not steal on one hand, but the other hand also have to give, if you want to be righteous. 

BUT, the instinct that I have there is that doing what is right is usually pretty simple. Wake up, eat, share food with others, do your job, say thank you and please, offer someone your seat, shake hands and look them in the eye and say “Hi, how are you?”—and listen, ask a decent follow up question, eat some more, do your work, offer to help someone else do their work, eat again, create something artistic or exercise, help out around the house, read or write, brush your teeth, and go back to sleep. 

I am very convinced that doing all this very Basic Life Stuff is very difficult to do every day. I forgot to include prayer and reading the Bible. That list very well should fill up a day, and the ones I am guilty of not doing are eating with others, listening and asking decent follow up questions, creating something artistic or exercise, helping out around the house, reading and writing, and of course prayer and reading the Bible. This is all the optional stuff that is easy to forget and no one forces you to do, but this is some of the most important stuff to do. 

Things that are not important to me that should probably also be on that list are catching up on cultural, societal, and political current events both locally and worldwide (I mean there goes at least 30 minutes of your day reading and another 30 minutes reflecting on it and probably an additional 30 minutes discussing with a peer that agrees with you on it and if that a peer that disagrees with you on it, and lastly someone older that can give you new insight on it; this should probably happen at least once a week, but it happens about once a year for me); spending time with a loved one (that’s easy—unless you’re single, family is far away, or don’t know how to be intimate with another human being—all fairly common); spending time with someone you don’t usually get to—perhaps a faraway friend or a less fortunate fellow; handling finances; cooking; commuting; I don’t know. 

There’s just so much Basic Life Stuff is I think really fills up your day and you don’t even know it. It’s all super important and Doing the Right Thing—the kind that makes a person righteous—is basically invisible, in my opinion. Being a good person can’t be motivated by I want people to like me, but people don’t notice good people. Good people are invisible. 

There are of course times when a Good Person has to stand up against evil and do something big and heroic and that kind of thing—they will get attention for that, but they will not spend time receiving that attention. They will carry on doing Basic Life Stuff and no one will want to keep giving them attention, because who wants to give someone attention while they are paying their bills? 

ANYWAYS, that’s why I don’t give much thought to being a Good Person in a positive sense, because I’m by default always doing this kind of stuff, since I live in a busy city and fairly busy schedule—and I don’t like being idle. I generally just like to care about Basic Life Stuff and doing it well. It is actually quite difficult for me to express interest in what other people care about (I in fact told someone today “Did you want to chat?—cuz I’m really hungry.”—and then left) and I like being in my own thoughts and it’s hard for me to relate to people without treating them like projects or characters. I also get embarrassed about eating with people. 

I’m not really interested in people besides characterization and projects because—I think—the thing that makes a person a person is freedom and choices and limited options. I have no control over another person’s freedom, little influence on others’ choice (if I do, I don’t want it), and creating or limiting options is huge, but very much based on me, my own choices, and what I can offer.—at which point, I’m no longer thinking about the other person: I’m thinking about what we can both do, and how am going to influence that. I don’t get to choose where you eat, but I can choose to give you a list of options, which will have an influence, but that list is mostly just to help you, and of course the only reason you are listening to me about a list of option is because you want my opinion qua me, not my opinion of what it means to be you. I could list what you want, but you already know what you want. I’m not going to suggest to you what I think you want. You are already you and need to be you without me. I will just list what I want. Being interested in a person as a person—to me—often means stop being a person. I could let my infinite fall into another’s infinite, but we not merely infinite, we are also finite—and if you also happen to fall into my infinite, or you happen to be empty, then we will collapse. Neither of us will collapse if we admit we are finite. A glass can only spill what it contains. 

I don’t know how I got that far into why I’m not interested in people qua people, but it also points to why I’m so interested in who I am and what I do, because my being me is also the only way that you could be you. And what I choose to do is extremely important because there is so little I actually choose for myself, if Basic Life Stuff is very straightforward and mostly assigned to me. Life is a very strict template once you are born where are born, and moving around doesn’t make that much of a difference, but it’s those little choices within that template that make you you and me me. So of course I take my choices very seriously. Especially the ones that have to do with righteousness. Because  how much more general can you get besides doing right and wrong?—besides being good and bad. If something is right, is also all the other good things that make it better than the other things, in all respects, if right as general or universal as it seems to be. 

It’s the right thing to do in the morning to wake up. It’s as simple as that. 

This is where all the peer pressure and self-pressure talk comes in, because Basic Life Stuff is basic and presumed and data and there’s not a lot of arguing to do about it. 

But sometimes, when stuff that isn’t Basic Life Stuff comes up—that’s when it gets difficult. 

How often does it really come up, though? 

That’s why I don’t care about it. Is it really right to ever watch TV when I haven’t called my brother in months? Is it ever right to buy a coffee or any other drink when I constantly refuse to tithe? Is it ever right discuss the problems of the state when I won’t even discuss my own problems? 

No, no, and no—and yet none of it wrong either. But why worry about this non-Basic Life Stuff when I haven’t taken care of Basic Life Stuff?

You see, this is where character-talk comes in. It isn’t in my character to care for x, but rather y. It’s right to care about both x and y, but if when I choose one and not the other, it’s because I simply don’t have the time. 

No one can really the deny the importance of anything, they can just assert that something else is more important. 

I will be me and you will be you. You will care about x and neglect y, and I will are about y and neglect x. Both x and y will generally be taken care of. I will trust you to be you and you will trust me to be me. When it comes to z, we will be on the same page. And because we are different pages in the same book—and not an infinity of pages folding into each others books—we will not always be the same page. But I trust that your page is as important as mine. How could I ever write if no one would read? Why would I? 

I am interested in other people, their choices, why they are the way that they are, but mostly I want to understand them.—and mostly they do not make sense, neither logically nor intuitively to me. Usually they will not want to explain, do not know how to explain, explain too simply, and cannot take up my criticism. I usually end up explaining them to myself in my own words. That is why I watch and I watch and I watch. I think about them a lot, spy on their words and deeds, preferably uninfluenced by what I would say, hoping that they can be them while I be nothing. 

And regret?

Did I forego a choice? Lose an option? Take away someone else’s choice? Influence too much? Say something too loudly? Did I force anything upon anyone? Did I do something by chance or by accident? 

That is all regret. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. Every choice is good because I chose it, and every choice is bad because I lost my freedom to do the other thing. I chose x and  z, instead of y and z. That is regret. That I could never have all three. That I must be me and cannot be you.

Here are three variables. Solve for two. 

What about the third? 

You don’t get credit for that one. 

Extra credit? 

No. 

Why not? 

There’s no such thing as more than 100%. 

But I am infinite?

You are not merely infinite. 

Oh. Right. 

Okay then. Pick two. 

I guess it’s better than one. 

Yes, that’s the spirit. 

Yes yes. 

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I can’t meet another existing individual where he is until I know what it is to be an existing individual. I am cognitively incapable of understanding the suffering of another until I accept my own pain. Empathy demands of us unparalleled honesty. In order to truly empathize with another, I must understand my own existence. Otherwise, my empathy is based on the mere simulacra through which I view reality. I will be unable to empathize with the majority of the world in their lived experience with death until I have an accurate conception of my own experience with life.

It’s all about coming to terms with our existence. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is a terrifying proposition. The reason that most of our literature is filled with flowery prose and plotlines focused on significant climaxes is that we as humans are deeply afraid that if we confront the reality of our existence, we will be met with emptiness. We constantly try to escape the everyday because, among other things, we can’t bear the thought that our existence is potentially meaningless. Existential literature gives us the opportunity to examine the reality of life from a safe distance. We are given the space to look through the eyes of another consciousness, and this experience puts us face-to-face with life, showing us exactly what it means to live.

http://www.lewisreview.com/culture/empathyliteratureandthestruggletoexist/
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