Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Are "good" and "bad" meaningless concepts?

A friend of mine one day discovered a lump in his abdomen. Over time the lump grew. This was bad, my friend thought. Fearing cancer, he went to the doctor. After all the tests had been run, it was determined that the lump was a hernia. This was good (compared to cancer anyway). But also the tests revealed that my friend had the very beginnings of bladder cancer. This was bad. But the cancer was caught so early it was easily cured. This was good.

If my friend hadn't had the lump (bad), he would've never discovered he had bladder cancer and he would have died (bad). So maybe him having the lump was not so bad, after all. Maybe, dare we say, it was good?

That's the catch. Labeling things "good" and "bad" is pointless because we never know if what we're calling bad might ultimately be good for us and vice versa.

I was a heavy cigarette smoker. When I quit many years ago I knew that even though I'd quit, there was still a substantial risk that I'd get lung cancer. So I was reading the newspaper one day and there was an article about how consuming beta carotene (an organic compound found abundantly in carrots) greatly reduced the risk of getting lung cancer in former smokers.

So every day for one solid year I ate carrots, which I really don't like, but hey, it was good for me.

Then one day I was reading the newspaper and there was an article about how consuming beta carotene increased former smokers risk of getting lung cancer.


Well, now that was quite a surprise to this carrot gobbling guy. But there it is again. What I thought was good was acutally bad.

All this isn't to say that life is arbitrary and the choices we make make no difference. But it is to say that the judging we do (assigning things as good or bad) is exceptionally unreliable.

Personally, I think life is much better when we avoid judging things altogether. By all means be aware as best you can of what your options are, make your best decision. But leave off the good and bad designations. And leave them off events and things, as well. You don't know what might be good or bad for you. What you thought was the worst thing might in hindsight be the best. Life flows more peacefully without all the judgments. Something happened. Well, something happened. Just leave it at that. It will be a more accurate representation of reality, and it will save you the ups and downs of calling it good or bad.

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