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I feel neither like a sinner nor sinned against, but I am struggling to see any good in anyone or myself. I am reminded for the 100,000th time of "mankind is a bridge", and that's what we can love about him. I am not asking a bridge to what, but what exactly is it about us that allows for progress, if we're not talking about human progress but the meaning of humanity?

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    I would suggest considering the possibility that you aren't good, but that you can and ought to do good, be the acts of kindness however small, until goodness becomes a habit. Whereupon you will find you have become good.
    – g s
    Jul 26, 2023 at 6:18
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    I would encourage you to be kind to people who aren't especially worthy or needy, and look for the very little things that you can do every single day beyond what is expected of a decent person, not acts of conspicuous gallantry/largesse.
    – g s
    Jul 26, 2023 at 6:53
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    "...I am struggling to see any good in anyone or myself." What would you consider good? For example, there are millions of people out there dedicating (large parts of) their lives to improving the world and the lives of others, on big and small scales. As a consequence we are living in the most peaceful and prosperous time in human history, with people living longer and healthier and more stable lives than ever before, and things are only trending for the better every single day. This is by the hard work and dedication of people. Do you not consider this good?
    – user66998
    Jul 26, 2023 at 10:31
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    It all comes down to what you mean by "good". From a scholastic perspective, every being is good.
    – Mutoh
    Jul 26, 2023 at 17:41
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    I think your vague queries are better suited for a therapist than for this forum.
    – user66998
    Jul 26, 2023 at 18:26

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I would say this depends on what you mean by "good". Do you mean good for the Earth, for the ecosystem? Do you mean good in an universal sense? Do you mean "good" in a moral/ethical/religious/spiritual sense?

In all of these cases, the answer would either make no sense, or depend solely on the opinions of the one asking - i.e., calling humanity itself "good" or "not good" only says something about the one saying so, not about humanity.

"Humanity" (i.e. the whole of us, the species) can certainly be seen as something which simply is. You wouldn't ask whether any other non-intelligent species, or whether any other fact about the universe at large is "good".

All about humanity can simply be seen as a completely natural extension of the process of evolution that has brought up everything else - including our intelligence, our technology, our big cities, the fact that we make large swaths of the earth non-inhabitable for other species, and so on and forth. There does not need to be a moral difference between termites changing their environment (nothing grows in/on a termite hill except termites), and us building megacities - in both cases a species simply uses the tools available to them to reproduce as much as possible. That is the core of what evolution is, no matter if you talk about plants, animals, or simply the chemical elements.

As you say you are struggling, it sounds like you are asking a bit for help there, and you (OP, as a person) seem to have a problem with not finding anything good about us. I encourage you to explore the idea that things just are what they are. It is not required to find an external, objective meaning-of-life to live and be just fine. It is perfectly fine to assume that humanity as a whole is just as random of a process as a termite hill. Progress is assured by evolution (in its most general form); where it leads to can neither be predicted nor does it really matter. There is no score card handed out at the end, as far as we know.

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It doesn’t take much to see that humans are pretty cool members of the earth’s animal kingdom. We have complex speech, we can use tools, we can grow and dye our hair and clothing fabulous colours, and there is a great capacity for compassion and warmth in humanity in relation to what can be a very harsh world.

But a reasonable question to be asking at this stage is whether we overvalue humanity relative to the wider potential of nature as a whole, and whether our push for exclusively human interests is of net detriment to the world.

This is the charge of Speciesism (cf. the moral status of animals) and I think it’s quite a sensible combination of views that humans are valuable, but that our value judgements should not be as wholly focussed on humans as they are.

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    Well, the suggestion Singer et al. make is that the goodness of humans is in some critical ways deficient at present, but we might be capable of improving by recognising the moral value of non-human beings and developing accordingly. You can both think that humans aren’t perfect and that there is great potential to forge a better world, and that’s pretty cool.
    – Paul Ross
    Jul 26, 2023 at 6:46
  • @Corbin, I've definitely needed to make an interpretation of the question, which is asking about what's good about humans in the context of a "bridge to" something and the "meaning of humanity" in contrast to human progress. I've proposed that this might be part of the answer here: an ethnocentric view does skew this understanding in ways that an alternative perspective might help.
    – Paul Ross
    Jul 27, 2023 at 4:54
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Existentialists like Sartre argue that meaning is not inherent - it is constructed by the choices we make and the actions we take. We must take responsibility for finding our own purpose.

He says that we have the freedom and responsibility to create meaning by how we live authentically and treat others. The goodness in humanity is not pre-defined, but rather something we construct by the values we uphold and compassion we show.

So according to his concept Life will always contain suffering and injustice. But we can find purpose in standing up through our actions for the ideals we believe make life meaningful - justice, creativity, love, beauty.

Whether it is the concept you like - is another question. ;)

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  • Yes. Ideas will only take one so far. I often use the phrase: the tyranny of concepts. Deeper is "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower".
    – Scott Rowe
    Jul 26, 2023 at 10:54
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I felt I would answer... not so much the question but your comment which I feel is the real heart of your question.

As a preliminary let me say that I believe that all (authentic) religions are equally worthy of our consideration. [Or simply, I am a perennialist]

However sometimes you feel confined and claustrophobic in the culture you find yourself in and you need a different perspective. Here is (a snippet of) the Hindu one; hope it helps

Happy → Good vs Good → Happy

Hindus have two aspects of the Divine — Rama and Shiva.
[Well there are zillions but I'll stick to two for here, Also these formats of the divine are often mistranslated as 'gods', I'll stay with the standard anglophone mistranslation for here ]

shiva means good, rama means happy.
Shiva does and makes happy, Rama does and makes good.
So you will find that Rama is generally depicted as worshiping Shiva, and Shiva as worshiping Rama. While we need not get into the endless mythology of this bonhomie, lets just say that the Platonic forms of the Good and of happiness are closely intertwined.

This translates into two fundamental possible vectors that a human can chart through their life:

  • I find the good in my innermost core; then in increasing widening concentric circles spread that good in the form of happiness — the Shiva mode
  • I find happiness in my innermost core; then in increasing widening concentric circles spread that happiness by doing good — the Rama mode

My suggestion then in short: Let go the Shiva mode — be good, make happy — and try the complementary Rama mode — be happy, spread good.

Once that makes sense the next step is natural at least to easterners

Practical non duality

The practice of non-duality is quite simple — at least to enunciate!!

  • You establish the firm conviction that the sole being that exists is you
  • all else is input/output data, input data comes in from the sense organs, output data flows out from the volitional organs
  • Now assuming you are like the 99.99% of us who imagine we have/are in a body [We'll ignore the 0.01% who know themselves as one with the cosmos] you sit to meditate alone
  • Alone of course literally means when/where no one will disturb you; but more importantly it means with a deep conviction that there is only you...
  • ... and data!
    • Thoughts come and go... um interesting (or maybe not)
    • Feelings come and go... usually more engaging
    • Most important of all the breath comes and goes. Mostly we ignore it as a given, but try stopping it for 20 seconds and see how SUPER INTERESTING it is! You may try if you like the mediation called the anapanasati sutra of Buddha...
      Or a zillion others...
  • The point is not the mediation technology you use but to come to an interest in yourself and thence a love of yourself. Finally abidance in yourself (or in the Self).
    Terminology: 'atma', usually mistranslated as 'Self' better translated as ground of awareness: you seek to progress from atma anusandhana to atma vichara to atma nishtha.

With even a little practice you will find you become a better person. But the important thing to get is that the effort is not to be good but to be happy and to love yourself; the good follows as a natural corollary.


PS

Still eastern but a different culture and still a choice: Which of these three guys appeals to you? Its a really fundamental choice...

The Vinegar tasters

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    Like the "one buttock" piano player from "The Art of Possibility"
    – Scott Rowe
    Jul 26, 2023 at 10:52
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    @ScottRowe Ben Zander?
    – Rushi
    Jul 26, 2023 at 11:13
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    "The lights must never go out, The music must always play, All the conventions conspire To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good." - Auden
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 26, 2023 at 11:22
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Mankind is a trap; drop the pretensions to 'feeding the world', and rather than thinking of good and evil in others consider instead things that "truth" and "meaning". Sure it's difficult when you're alone, but there's no need to make something of that

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The Christian worldview (and particularly that of my theology in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is that mankind is both good and bad. We are all children of God who is perfectly good, and we chose to follow him in a pre-mortal life, which means all mankind were good then. But by the fall of man, man became evil, and devilish by nature. Good men who have lived throughout the ages are those who have put off their sinful nature, and become saints through the atonement of Christ the Lord. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/3?lang=eng&id=p19#p19 .

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