The Midweek Muse: Doing the Right Thing
The Midweek Muse
A little inspiration to get you over the hump…
The theme for this week’s midweek muse is “Doing the right thing.”
If you have not participated in our midweek muse before, basically I come up with a theme for you to creatively explore through writing, artwork, photography, song lyrics or the simple telling of your experience as related to that theme.
One of the laments of many people who suffer from depression is that they have been doing all the right things but…their life is still in chaos or that they still are fighting the demon of despair. Some people may wonder, “Why me?” because they have struggled to remain a good person despite the obstacles and traumas in their life.
There is a book which explores this theme: Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Rabbi Kushner is no stranger to adversity as he has had to deal with his son Aaron’s death at the age of 14 due to an incurable disease.
Why bad things happen to good people is a topic explored by all the major religions and philosophers and even movie producers.
A recent independent movie I saw in the theater and then simply had to purchase when it came out was “A Serious Man” which one reviewer described as relocating the biblical Job to the 1960’s suburbs. If you haven’t seen it, it is magnificent as a dark comedy goes. And the ending will leave you with your mouth open. I don’t know if you will feel sorry for or empathize with the main character who goes through so many trials and tribulations all the while trying to find an answer as to the eternal “why?” Despite his patience, resilience, and stoic resistance to do wrong, he still suffers greatly. You get to witness his spiritual quest to ease his depression and despair over a universe seemingly bent to make his life a continuous episode of 'Punkd."
I think many of us can relate to this. We try and try and the world in so many deeds and actions…poops on us. Meanwhile we can point out a ton of people doing wrong and seemingly being rewarded for it. And again we wonder…why are we sad?
Believe me when I tell you that I am no saint. But I can recall one of the first times I felt that nagging feeling to do the right thing. I was probably about six or so. My mother and I were in one of the big department stores. A little background is that my mother raised me by herself. She suffered from mental illness and we were dirt poor. And my mother found an unattended shopping bag full of merchandise and with a receipt in the bag. My mother took the bag and was walking with me out of the store. I asked her who the bag belonged to and she told me to be quiet. But I didn’t and couldn’t. I pleaded with her to take it back. We were waiting for a bus outside the store and I began to cry. All I knew is that it wasn’t good for us to take that bag of stuff. My mother finally broke down and left it inside the doors of the store but she was really mad at me. I got yelled at and then some when I got home.
So there was nothing to be gained for me except the absence of that “ewww” feeling you get when something isn’t right.
Then there was the time in high school typing class where I refused to cheat. We had these timed typings where we would be required to type a passage and see how far we got with as little mistakes as possible. The teacher had us pick the best of two. So you can imagine that people figured out that they would simply start one typed passage and then when he told us to do the second one…most people picked up typing from where they last stopped with the first piece of typing. But not me. Call me stupid and many of my friends in that class called me just that. I could have had the easy “A.” But I took my B- for being slow as compared to others and didn’t say a word.
These may be silly small personal examples from my life. But amplify this to the example of a man who gets lung cancer and he has never smoked a day in his life or the person with a stellar driving record who gets maimed in a car accident caused by someone else or a child who gets straight A’s and never gets in trouble who gets shot in a drive by shooting.
When you analyze life in this way…it seems terribly and horrifically unfair.
So why “do the right thing”? Don’t do it…to get something in return. Don’t do it for image or ego because then it becomes a false thing. Do it…because it is consistent with your core. Goodness is part of our humanity. And yes we will suffer regardless. There are no score cards or trading points. Sometimes the most you will get out of being good is a good kick in the behind…a bad grade…an angry mother…or worse. So don’t expect a reward.
Do the right thing because it feels internally good. Do it because the soul hungers for it. It is the antithesis to despair. Do it because there are times when your ability to choose good is all that you have.
As one of the rabbi mentors in the movie, “A Serious Man” advised, “Be good.”