Don the Gloves of Logic and See if you can Pick Up Christianity – Part 4
I wanted to write about what happens when you meet another person who is more moral than you. I have a theory that everybody loves this, that everybody gets a thrill out of it; a kick is maybe the better word.
A kick out of meeting someone who, you’re not sure why—you might or might not know the reason—but you can tell that somehow, on some level, they are made of stronger stuff, at least in some places.
This has happened to me countless times in my life, and I’ve managed to learn something from some of them. But I’ve always enjoyed it; I get such a kick out of it.
There’s a phrase that we say to each other every day, without thinking about what it actually means: how are you. And this is what I wonder, whenever I meet one of these people. How are you? How did you get to be this?
Can I be that?
Can I be it too? I mean, that’s what I say, to myself.
It’s almost like: “What do you have in there? Is that—where’d you get that? Can I have a, like maybe a little, can I have just a little bit? Because it looks like it’s good. I mean, I haven’t ever had it before—but it *looks* good.”
When you encounter someone who is more moral than you, how do you know that they are? You see them not doing things that you do, or doing things that you don’t.
So when you meet someone who is more moral than you, you see that you are wrong, by some standard. There is no other way to know that they are more moral than you.
But you also see that there is way to be right by that same standard, because here’s someone who’s doing it. And so what do we do? What do we do, when we’re wrong? I know what I like to do.
I like to lie down.
Not, like on a bed.
In my head.
If you picture the force of that moral code, of that other person’s standards, which must be in some part your standards too—otherwise you kindof wouldn’t notice, right?— when you see that force come at you, like a tidal wave; you can let it knock you down. You can stand there, defiant—or maybe just numb—and let it knock you down, and then, well, you know, you’re going to feel some pain, because you’re wrong.
You can try to fight it. It came up in some other things I was writing this week, actually my life, not other things I was writing: but people wrong you, and sometimes they even get mad at you afterwards. All by themselves. No extra help. This makes perfect logical sense. We don’t want to hurt someone who themselves didn’t do anything wrong, so we’ll invent something that they did do wrong.
So that’s that reasoning. I wouldn’t hurt a good person, but I might strike out in self-defense. And if I did mess up and hurt a good person, well, then, by a certain emotional logic, I should try to re-invent the person I hurt as someone who hurt me. And that balances out my misdeed, my mistake, in some sense. People do that; that’s why they yell at you. Certain people. Other people are just nasty because they’ve been hurt, so they feel entitled to be mean, because other people have been mean to them. Hookers aren’t nice, for instance. You rarely meet a hooker who’s friendly.
Back to topic. This might be an unusual thing to enjoy, and I’m not sure I can say I enjoy it, always, but you know, when someone comes at you with an accusation, even if it’s the form of their life, I think the best thing I’ve found to do as far as the payoff is to lie down and … kindof let it pummel you? I find this the least painful route. Because from underneath, I don’t know—I like being underneath. I’ve always liked it.
Underneath the right thing, obviously. You don’t want to be underneath the wrong thing. That’s no fun at all. But it feels really good to be underneath the right thing. You say, ok, I checked this out, I used my brain before I got under here. It seems well-reasoned and I think SOMEHOW BETTER THAN ME. Not in every way, sure, but in some way, definitely better than me. So I’ll just get under here now.
Because that’s when it gets really interesting actually; once you are underneath that accusation, it is not easy to stay there. Oh boy it isn’t. Because you are going to want to protest; you are going to want to try to stand back up. It takes a lot of willpower not to. You don’t give that reason; you don’t give that excuse; you don’t argue; you lie down. Now if they’re WRONG, and you’e RIGHT, all you have to do is WAIT.
Or maybe I should say, all you get to do is wait.
It can’t be the case that you are going to have to wait forever, however. Just keep track of what that wave is bringing—maybe halfway through you figure out that it’s wrong—find a good place, where it subsides a little; and pull out. Your list of how wrong it is.
But that is not what I am trying to talk about here; that’s a completely separate thing. I’m trying to talk about when it’s right. This person really is better than you. And you see them, standing tall in front of you, their head maybe blocking out the sun a little, and you see that where they’ve gone left, you went right.
It hurts for a second; maybe more than one. But it doesn’t have to. *Why* did you go right? It’s not that important at that moment, is it? *Will* you go left or right next time?—that’s more important. But even that isn’t quite it.
I think it doesn’t hurt, I think the way you learn not to feel the pain of being wrong is that you line yourself up with what is right, as fast as possible. I like to picture myself underneath a nice big garden planter, maybe with a small but not exactly tiny cedar tree in it. Between such a planter and a teak deck, perhaps. You go ahead; you be a tree; I like it down here.
People are sometimes blown away when I try to do this. They expect something else from me, I guess. I don’t know. Why should I know. Maybe they want me to sit at the patio table instead.
I’m hesitating to come to my point here because I’m not sure what’s right and wrong. I don’t want to write anything that I can’t even convince myself is true.
Do we really need other people to show us how to be? I’m pretty sure it’s a good idea to learn from other people.
In that case, what’s ok and what’s not, in terms of their showing us? That varies a lot from person to person, and I may have been desensitized to some things that really aren’t ok in terms of letting someone know that they are wrong. So I want to be careful not to advocate things that are unhealthy, just because I have been through some unhealthy things.
It would be one thing if I had a mechanism for handing an accusatory onslaught that most people don’t have, and just wouldn’t get a chance to apply. That really wouldn’t do much damage.
I wish, this was supposed to be a fun blog—it started out that way—about how nice it is to meet someone more moral than you, because you can learn so much from them. And there is a way to arrange yourself in relationship to that other person that makes that learning process very easy. But.
On the other hand, if I have accumulated some kind of junk, some conceptual junk from experiencing the wrong kind of moral adjustment, it would be a terrible thing to pass that conceptual junk on.
Let me try a different tact, after eating this cupcake.