No Earthly Good…


It’s a good thing there aren’t a lot of people like me. The world probably wouldn’t function very well if everyone shared my interests and outlooks, but it’s a big world with room for all sorts of different people.

Some people are so heavenly minded
that they are no earthly good.
— O.W. Holmes.

I heard these words once, when I was in my early 20’s. I think that deep down inside I’ve carried them forward as a personal warning — something to try not to be like. That battle between my the things that motivate me, and the need to live in a very selfish world has been ongoing pretty much my entire life.

Let me start by saying I have never understood why people are motivated by money.  I had one job in my career where I actually had to attempt to sell something — by that description you already know I wasn’t awfully successful at it.  I had another job in what was then called “indirect sales” — which was really more about PR than anything else and I was a little better at that but it was for a product that was going through a cycle of poor longevity so there was plenty of opposition.  But either way, I don’t understand getting excited over making a sale.  It’s a gosh darn product.  One of a gazillion other products that someone, somewhere are hawking and you are supposed to buy. Why “my” product should merit your purchase over some other equally meritorious product just doesn’t get my juices flowing.

Secondary to my lack of financial motivation is the fact that I am inspired by ideas.  The reason — and I talked briefly about this a few days ago — that I was reading philosophy in my early teens — and since — is that ideas have weight.  More weight than money.  Except too many people can’t look past the money to see the ideas.

Thirdly, let me strip (just temporarily) from Christianity all of the sectarian beliefs and look for a moment at the person of Jesus.  No matter how you feel about the churches built upon his teachings, the lore, the myth and whatever people have subsequently heaped upon him the recorded teachings of the man are filled with heady, lofty ideas — ideals even.

I’m not going on a complete doctrinal survey here, but there is the idea that doing good to others is to be commended.  Also, that casting stones at someone if you are similarly guilty is not a good practice.  Caring for the poor and the blind and the naked — too, are acts that benefit us all; for if we can help those who are helpless until they can help themselves society is stronger even if it comes at some personal cost to other individuals. There are a host of positive values that even Christians seem unaware of — or at least their behavior speaks to their ignorance, and their protestations speak to their stubbornness and preference for their own ideas over his.

In a world of rampant selfishness and greed I find it hard sometimes to maintain goals of self-sacrifice.  All my life I have given up greater wages and more security to live a life that benefitted others.  I have absolutely zero regret at having done that even though our retirement would be a lot easier had I done so.  But what does bother me is that so few humans really “get”  ideals and the idealism that can be of so much positive benefit to all.  And, what’s worse, living in a Capitalist society — a world where the only thing that seems to matter is making a profit — the rush of ideas most prevalent and most frequently expressed are about how to maximize profit/time/benefit/whatever without concern for the cost to others.

I’m not sure that I’m depressed about this.  Because I continue on my own path day by day.  But, you can’t listen to any of the media without being pummeled by stories of abuse, lies, and egregious behavior; and hiding one’s head in the sand like an ostrich isn’t (probably) the best way to go through life. I admit that angers me.  Yeah — I’m angry.

Then again I can say, “well, I’m older now and it’s the next generation’s job now.”  The problem with that is that I don’t really believe it.  A great many people a lot older than I am are still out there fighting significant battles — I could be one of them.  Or at least my brain could desire to be one of them whether or not my body is going to cooperate.

I don’t think there’s a day that goes by and I don’t think to myself whether there are ways I can do something for someone else.  I find it maddening that so much of the news is about selfish people.  It’s not that it costs so much to be nice. It’s that people are so focussed on getting and grabbing for themselves. They literally take no time to think about anyone or any thing than self.

We have our moments.  Great outpourings of compassion occur in connection with catastrophes.  But those outpourings rarely last as long as the need lasts.  And many of them continue unnoticed for years.  The problem of what to do with refugees is among them.  And I wont even do more than mention it because it’s a whole separate post (or series of posts).  Our hearts ought to be broken by the needs around us and society chugs along as if nothing were wrong and no one was in pain.

All I can do is live my own life, do what I can, spread the word as far as I can, and let go. I’m not very good at letting go.  So I carry my frustration along with me.  Probably not good for my heart but hey, we all do things that aren’t good for us, right?

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2 thoughts on “No Earthly Good…

  1. “Great outpourings of compassion occur in connection with catastrophes.” when I see this in action, though I am grateful that people are out helping their fellow man, I am also saddened that it takes a catastrophe to create the stimuli to help. Why can’t we just be this way all the time. I know I am speaking to the choir…it’s really a shame.

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