I’m stating some of this on faith, as an axiom to build reasoned arguments on, not something arrived at through reason itself since it is somewhat circular in its reasoning. Even so….
With our bodies, we have decided that those things good for us must taste bad, so mothers stew cheap vegetables until they are inedible and make the eating of them a virtue rather than a joy. And so we learn our first lesson that virtue is that which we do not like.
We cling to this twisted lesson, and we apply it to our souls. Those things that make us suffer, that bring us guilt, those things we call moral. Those things that bring us joy and accomplishment we call evil. And so we twist the natural senses we’ve been given and seek pain instead of pleasure. And denying ourselves our natural pleasures, we chase unnatural ones that bring us more guilt and shame; those emotions we think show our moral character, our ability to suffer.
We see suffering in the world, and we feel impotently guilty about the ease of our lives. Those who suffer still suffer, but now we suffer too. We call this good, moral and empathetic.
Another sees suffering in the world, risks his own money and and time to invent something to alleviate it, sells it to those in need, and keeps the profits to himself, along with the unhidden pride of having removed the suffering of so many. This man we call selfish, heartless and greedy.
We say that he only deserves pay for his hours of work, paid like other men’s labors. But those other men did not remove suffering despite all their hours of toil. We want him to share the reward of his success, but we would not have covered his losses had he failed.
Guilt does not make one moral. Guilt is given to us to correct our error, not to excuse us from lack of right action, nor to punish us for errors that are not our own.
Righteous pride goes not before the fall, but after the ascent. Pride is given to us to in reward for our correct behaviors. As with our sweet tooth it can harm us if separated from our reason, but as we use our nose and mouth to tell us fresh food from spoiled, so we should use our pride and guilt to tell right from wrong and act accordingly.
As I said before, we have a right to pride in our accomplishments, but this is based on a deeper right, the right to exist and live. We have a right to our life and a right to make a space for ourselves in the world. We have a right to achieve and to keep the rewards of our success. We should not feel guilty for these things. Guilt is for wrong action, not existence, and never for achievement. Guilt is for negligence, but not for the infinite things we could have done but didn’t.
Do we exist only to fail? I take on faith we do not. We exist to ascend. Can we be damned for failing the impossible task? I believe too much in justice to believe that. How then could we be guilty for the suffering of others? No matter how much we work, or think, or give, or bleed, or sacrifice, there will always be more suffering. If we fed everyone, they would need education. If we educated everyone they would need jobs. If we employed everyone they would need childcare. And computers, and satellite TV and XM Radio and it never ends because every new thing we invent is something that people will need to be full members of the modern world. If you bear guilt because you have not provided everything to everyone on the planet, then you exist only to fail.
The suffering of others that is not caused by our actions, is not our error and not our guilt. There is no Original Sin, and there is no Sin of Existence. The sins of others, the sins of our ancestors, are not our guilt, nor are we guilty for playing the hand we were dealt, be it a royal flush or a busted straight. We are not guilty of the hand our brother was dealt. It is between him and the universe. But if it brings you joy to help him, do so within your ability, and do so in the way that best helps him so that you might rightly be proud of your efforts. You are not his slave that you must work to feed him, nor is he your slave to be your responsibility. You agreed to no contract and you created no obligation. He is another human, and his right is to make his own place in the world.
So let go of impotent guilt and seize joy. Positive is not the absence of negative. Create a positive, an action. Be.