It was a perfectly logical explanation, and that was the problem with it (the scenic route – pt.1)

The two of them had been driving together for nearly a day and in that amount of time it’s hard to keep the conversation entirely at the surface.

As they passed farm houses and trailer parks, “international” airports and state lines, the two began delving deeper into more personal, existential questions.

The one older friend began talking about how his life is different now. He explained how he made some big mistakes and needed to re-evaluate things and figure out what sort of person he wanted to be. He told his younger friend that he now tries to be a better person. His younger friend asked him what he meant by “better”. Kinder, generous, helpful, less angry and faithful were a few things he used to describe how he measured whether or not he was being a better person.

He continued on saying how he doesn’t compare himself by how other people are living, but by how much his own life is improving from year to year. He briefly talked about Karma and how he truly believed that what goes around comes around and this seemed to be a significant motivator for living the way he did.

The measure of his wealth as a person was determined by how much better he was doing from one year to the next. 

His younger friend quietly sat there and asked many questions. He found his older friend being honest and sincere, but there was just something to his approach that he couldn’t grasp. At the time he couldn’t exactly articulate why this approach made him feel the way it did.

A day later the younger friend was walking down the street, still thinking about what his older friend had told him about living a life where you try and be a good person and live a better life. As he walked by a homeless man another guy walked by, going in the opposite direction. The Other guy dropped down a five-dollar-bill into the hat of the homeless man.

The younger friend gave a bit of change, walked by and then sat on a bench a little ways down from the homeless man. He began thinking hypothetically. He thought about the guy who gave $5 and that maybe that guy gave $2 last week. Thoughts starting rushing through his head

Is he a better person this week because he gave $3 more? Was he kinder because he gave more? What if his heart wasn’t in it? What if he just gave so that someone would give to him in the future? Maybe he’s one of those people, like my older friend, who believes that he should do good so that good things will happen to him.

The idea that your wealth and identity comes from being a better person just didn’t seem to sit right for the younger friend. It was a perfectly logical explanation, and that was the problem with it. Though young, he wasn’t foolish. His life was anything but perfectly logical. He didn’t want to put his identity into a way of life that was self-seeking and self-interested: a way of life where his identity was based around being a better person in the hope that as a result other people would be better to him.

He went on his way, hoping to find an alternative view.

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Categories: the scenic route

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One Comment on “It was a perfectly logical explanation, and that was the problem with it (the scenic route – pt.1)”

  1. peter
    December 2, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    Michael, I accidently stumbled upon this blog but since then I find myself revisiting this place occasionally. Every time I leave this site I gain a little bit of inspiration and hope. So thanks and keep up the good work.

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