On Goodness

I have been fascinated with “goodness” from a young age.

My younger days: 5 – 13 years

My younger days (pre- to early-teens) were concerned with how goodness was necessary to ensure one didn’t go to hell. I remember taking a boat ride through “hell” at the now defunct Haw Par Villa — a Buddhist/Toaist/Chinese-based themepark — and being horrified by the images I saw.

I learnt that in hell people were burnt, crushed (or more specifically, ground), whipped and pulled apart at the demons’ pleasure.

People in hell, I surmised, did not enjoy themselves.

This was contrasted with the images (mostly cartoons) I had seen on television about Heaven, which when I was younger mostly held for me the theme of abundance (in the form of food, money, or trading cards –this would later morph into the prospect of unlimited sex).

As much as I feared how “badness” would lead me to hell, and how goodness had the potential to lead me into heaven, goodness and badness was less a thermostat for me than a thermometer. I never bothered changing my behaviours as much as I observed them; which, I think, laid the foundation for my later years.

My older years: 15 – 21 years

When I grew a little older, goodness took on a more practical outlook. I moved away from merely thinking about goodness and toward being a good person. I wanted to be good, and sought guidance from various religions and philosophies in my aim.

It was during this time that I became highly introspective. I took up meditation, and regularly attended church. I also started and kept a regular journal, which ignited a long-latent passion of writing within me.

I knew that my attempt at being good was working when I started hearing people complimenting my niceness, a positive externality to my just trying to be good.

I was known as a “mama’s boy”, “big friendly giant” and just plain “decent”. People started confiding in me, and many felt they could trust me. I knew I must have been doing something right, but still, I knew I was a long way from perfect.

Present: 21 onwards

Much as I know perfection is beyond anyone, I do not give up trying. It’s oft-quoted that in many things if you’re not improving and moving forward, you’re deproving and moving backward. The same goes with goodness.

I’m a strong believer in karma, or at least, that there should be karma. I want good to happen to me when I do good to others. I want to receive help when I need it, if I help others in need. But when this hypothesis fails, I become distressed and unhappy.

I started this post because I suddenly felt a surge of envy well up within me.

He seems to be so self-centred, and I don’t remember ever having seen him take a proactive stance toward helping others. Why, then, does he seem to get the lucky breaks?

I took a breath, looked back on myself as objectively as I could, and realised something: my very questioning of his life led me away from the leading of mine.

And how can I hope to be good, when I can’t even love my enemies?

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