All enmity, jealousy, opposition, and secrecy are wholly, and in all circumstances, destructive in their nature – not productive; and all kindness, fellowship, and communicativeness are invariably productive in their operation – not destructive.
– John Ruskin
In honour of Lincoln’s birthday, a quote I misread at first
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
I thought it said: when I feel good, I do good. When I feel bad, I do bad. That version makes a lot of sense. There is a streak of mean in Western culture born, I think, of too little attention to Jesus’ admonition to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19) and too much reverence for blessing them that curse you (Matthew 5:44). Somewhere along the line the Church embraced the notion we should love everyone better than ourselves. After all, easy wins no brownie points with a fearsome God. To curry favour you have to suffer. Flagellation and hairshirts have gone out of style, but the self-abasing ideology of treating others better than we treat ourselves still has currency.
Which is idiotic. It isn’t just difficult to care about other peoples’ problems when neck-deep in your own, it is literally impossible. You might be able to feign interest, or force yourself to perform your social duties, but there won’t be a hole deep enough to bury your resentment. Anyway, how if you’re hurt, or struggling, how can you soothe pain or offer succor? Two drowners clinging together only sink faster.