Goalless, purposeless, pointless good. How’s that for a goal? A purpose? A point? How’s that for what we are here for? Not systemic, institutional, strategic, structured good, but good for no reason, with no result or outcome in mind? Reading a story to your child, or grandchild, because you enjoy reading stories to your child, or grandchild, and not to teach a lesson. Not to have an impact. Just to read a story.
Let today’s good be good enough for today. How’s that for a working principle? So that we aren’t worried about cumulative good, about stacking good up, about one thing leading to another, about accomplishment, and achievement, and progress, and success? So that we aren’t getting anywhere? So that we are just being in this moment, today, offering what this moment needs? And doing it again in the next moment? Without organizing a united effort to, say, end poverty, or war, or wars on poverty?
Think that will ever catch on? How much good do you think we avoid by working diligently in the service of the good? How much good do we walk past, ignore, never see because we are fixated on corporate, universal, wide-spread good? Who will not have the benefit of our compassionate, caring, attentive presence today because we are Doing Good? Who are we kidding, failing to do good by Doing Good?
What’s the plan? There is no plan! How’s that for a plan? Do you think Jesus had a plan? Living as though the kingdom of God was at hand was Jesus’ plan. Living as though the kingdom of God was breaking into the world through the way he lived in each moment was Jesus’ plan. Living to do things like they would be done in the kingdom of God was Jesus’ plan. It wasn’t a five-year-plan, with graphs and pie charts and statistical data. He couldn’t have told you how doing this was going to effect that over there. But he didn’t walk by good that needed to be done, unseeing, because he was caught up in Doing Good, on a Mission to Do Good.
Jesus was not beyond doing good that did no good—offering cold water and kind conversation, for example, in places where those things were welcome. Jesus did not run a cost/benefit analysis before touching and talking with those who shared the moment with him, before being present with them in a way that was good whether it did any good or not. Jesus’ good was episodic, momentary, and transformational. He didn’t mean anything by it beyond it, yet we are still experiencing the impact of it.
We have an idea of how good ought to be done. Identify a need. Identify the steps required to meet the need. Take the steps. Evaluate the process, in order to become increasingly effective in the service of good. Implement the changes. Repeat the process. Oh, and get a 501c3 designation. You can’t do any serious good without a 501c3. Jesus didn’t have a 501c3. Jesus was not tax-exempt. Think about that. The implications are staggering.
A good that isn’t deductible? How good can a good be that isn’t deductible? That does it! We’re out of here now, aren’t we? Forget it! We have better things to do, don’t we? The good that we do has to match our idea of how the good ought to be done. Jesus’ idea was to step into the moment and do there what needed to be done, and do it again in the next moment, without any necessary connection or carry-over between the moments. Without any momentum, progress or direction. Without any way of quantifying outcomes or measuring success. We cannot do it that way, can we?
What good is a good that does no good? It’s a waste of time, not to mention money, and other resources! We have to have something to show for our effort! We have to feel as though we are doing something, getting somewhere! We can’t just spin our wheels! We can’t just “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic”! We have to see progress! Achievement! Accomplishment! Success! You can’t transform the world one moment at a time!
We organize our lives around our understanding of how things are, how things work, what it takes to get what we want and have our way. If we think praying loudly to God every day, so that God will know we are serious believers and take our prayers seriously, will get God to heed our requests and give us what we want, then we will pray loudly every day. And, you cannot take that away from us, by outlawing praying loudly, perhaps, without doing harm to us. Without doing violence to our lives and leaving us without foundation.
When the United States “won the west” in its war with Native Americans, rounded up the tribes of the Indian Nations and herded them onto reservations, we destroyed their foundation, their culture, their spirit, their lives. Drive through a reservation, any reservation. Evaluate the quality of life you find there. Let that be an eternal reminder to you of the essential nature of our foundations. We cannot lose our orientation to the good—to our good, to what is good, to what it takes to do the good, to how the good is done—without losing every essential thing. In the aftermath of that loss, we may remain 98.6 and breathing, but we will not be alive.
Now, take a quick scan of the culture around you. Your culture. Your life. How is the culture robbing you, robbing us, of your, of our, orientation to the good? What is there of value in the culture beyond the (hope of) accumulation of money? Beyond becoming wealthy, being prosperous? Then, drive through the estates, or, rather, the compounds, of the Enron executives. Evaluate the quality of life there. There is a lot more stuff there than on a Native American reservation, but how different, really, is the quality of life? What is the life within the stuff like? What is the relationship between money and life? How much money is a soul worth?
When we lose our orientation to the good, we lose our souls. Soul loss is not symptom free. Take a quick scan of the culture. What do you see there that might be symptomatic of soul loss? What are you going to do about it?