More and more, I feel compelled to do Good in this world.
I’m not talking of giving to charity, although I fully support this gesture. I personally give to Doctors Without Borders and the Canadian Red Cross, because I think their work is critically important in this world, and they do their work not out of religious obligation (both are secular organisations), but because they must as human beings.
But what I’m talking about is a different compulsion. I want to do Good. I want to leave this world, some day hopefully not-too-soon, and feel I’ve made a positive difference. And with each passing year, this compulsion grows in me.
This, I suspect, is years of travel sinking in. I’ve now seen a few parts of the world where people are much less fortunate than I am. More importantly, I’ve begun realizing how my own little world of comfort is constructed on the backs of people who must suffer for my peace of mind. It’s easier to ignore their pleas when you don’t visit them… But I have. And I can no longer ignore them.
You might think this yearning comes from a religious sentiment. You’d be wrong. If anything, my lack of religion is making the urgency of this desire even more pressing. You see, if there is no Divine Plan, if there is no Divine Justice, and rewards in the Afterlife… Then how can we tolerate what we do to each other? If there are no consequences for the exploitation of the poor, for the suffering of millions while the rich ones dine in peace… How can we stand it?
I would argue that the absence of any higher moral authority and justice means the need to do good is greater and more urgent than anything else.
The question is, then, how does one do Good in this world?
Does it suffice to be yourself, and make every decision according to your nature and in accordance with your sense of responsibility? Or do we not have a moral obligation to reach out and improve the world? Is there anything that matters, ultimately, besides lessening the suffering of your fellow human beings, or even, against all hope, contribute to their happiness and well-being?
I don’t know, and it nags at me. And if anyone has part of the answer, I’d love to hear them out.