“The sincere wish to be good is half the battle.” — Marmee, in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.”
“The OTHER half of the battle, however, is the part where the ungrateful objects of your kindness are unleashing the Rottweilers on you.” — Danny Tyree, in a shameless attempt to pad his word count.
According to the Associated Press, Michael Schur (creator of the critically acclaimed NBC series “The Good Place”) has signed with publishing house Simon & Shuster to write the humor/philosophy book “How To Be Good: A Definitive Answer for Exactly What To Do In Every Possible Situation” (scheduled for fall 2021).
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with negative messages such as “Only the good die young” and “Nice guys finish last,” it’s uplifting to see the concept of goodness analyzed and promoted, even if in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
I thought it would be a hoot if I challenged each of you to write “alongside” Schur, spending the next year and a half pondering ethics and jotting down your thoughts on pivotal questions, such as “What is goodness?,” “Why does goodness matter?” and “Could I make amends for all my youthful indiscretions by depositing a sizable check in Danny Tyree’s Cayman Islands account?”
I anticipate that perspectives on goodness will vary wildly. Some of you will find its foundation in the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Others may embrace simply Doing the Right Thing with no acknowledgment of a Higher Power. Your motivations might involve an eternal reward or an upgraded reincarnation or leaving the world a better place before your consciousness blinks out of existence. Just don’t let MEDITATION sour you on the concept of goodness. (“Becoming ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE makes my butt look really fat doesn’t, doesn’t it?”)
When you wrestle with issues such as carbon footprints, animal rights, little white lies and mercy killings, you realize goodness isn’t as clear-cut as you would like. Oscar Wilde’s character Dorian Gray certainly oversimplified when he remarked, “To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self.” Yeah, I don’t care if the voices in your head are harmonizing in a BARBERSHOP QUARTET — if they’re whispering suggestions like, “Dude, let’s spend another weekend frolicking and planting pipe bombs,” we need a definitive answer to the situation of having a sociopath in our midst!
Doing good can generate great peace of mind, but it is no panacea. You can still wake up in the middle of the night with the chilling realization that “Back in 2007 when I vacationed in Dollywood, Earl gave me strict instructions of ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ — but I DID! May God have mercy on my soul, I did!”
Part of goodness involves not overreaching. If you ACHIEVE goodness, stop. Don’t show off by trying to be “good and READY” or “good ‘n’ plenty” or any of those highfalutin variations.
Now get started writing your journal of the path to goodness!
Kind-hearted person that you are, you’ll probably wind up making allowances for people because of their baggage. Just don’t set the bar as low as for your “Good boy!” four-legged family members.
That would radically change the standards for sainthood. (“No, I can’t document any miracles performed in Jason’s name — but he ALWAYS waited until visitors left to cough up a dead squirrel and scoot across the carpet.”)
©2020 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.