Friday, April 11, 2014


While catching up on the Daily Show recently, I saw an interview with Samuel J. Jackson promoting his latest blockbuster, Captain America. I've been thinking about good guys and bad guys ever since; mostly because there's no such thing. And yet, I also believe "character is the culmination of daily action" (to borrow Brianna Wiest's words). So I've been pondering the really good and less good people I know, and based on my own experiences with them, what actually makes one a better human being than another.
Clearly I'm writing this post because I've got it all figured out :). My working theory is that goodness is equal part intention as it is reaction. Although when it comes to poor choices, "not meaning to" doesn't take away from the negative effects of having done so, we shouldn't reduce the value of effort in redemption and forgiveness--especially, and for instance, after the most horrific events.
{Bois de Vincennes}
Soon after coming to this conclusion, I received an email from ScienceDaily. This headline--People with higher bonuses don't give more to charity--caught my eye. Apparently, "higher earners are less inclined to give, and donate a similar share of their money compared to those on lower incomes." Disappointing, I thought, though not all surprising. (I've been following Kristof's opinions on related issues.) Research lead Dr. Tonin said, "the distorted feeling of entitlement [coming from monetary bonuses that are often a result of skills, effort, and luck] may furnish subjects in the higher earner group with the moral ground not to act more generously."
Then a recent conversation with Lorelei about 'the halo effect' that accompanies benevolence came to my mind; as well as research findings I've shared previously: "Next to quitting smoking, giving is the best possible thing you could do for your health--making virtue truly its own reward." Upon closer examination though, as much as we may feel good by doing good, this hardly selfless feeling encourages a "positive feedback loop" that, in turn, encourages more altruism. Not bad, right? It's likely those great people I spoke of are reveling in such a state of being. And... they deserve to. Amidst more sad news, this world needs more like them.
*For the record, "altruistique" is entirely Franglish-ish. It has no meaning whatsoever yet accurately reflects the way I tend to communicate on a daily basis in Paris. All good, right?

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