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Post image for On Getting Good at Being Good

It’s really not very good. Your payday ritual of having eat-in pizza and a beer before you leave downtown after work suddenly feels like it’s no longer worth the nineteen dollars, or even the indigestion alone.

A loss of interest in something that used to excite you is a familiar feeling by now, but this time it’s so much worse than disappointment. You feel shame.

It occurs to you that FMSC or UNICEF could have fed a famished child for three months with that money, or maybe vaccinate someone against a horrendous disease. You don’t remember what buys what these days, but you know that instead of buying greasy food you could have spared someone suffering far greater in intensity than all the joy you’ve ever had eating pizza.

With the till receipt still in your hand, the truth of truths hits you: if you are to be a sane and good person, the well-being of others can be worth no less than yours. It’s the same thing.

Before this moment, you supposed that the population was more or less moral, other than a minority of bad people who put themselves before others. But now you see that every decision of yours has the power to create or prevent vast amounts of real suffering, and you have not been taking this responsibility seriously.

Thinking about it rationally, you can’t escape the conclusion that as long as you are regularly making decisions that do not maximize well-being for every sentient being, then you are being less than moral. Had you never realized that? It seems like you knew it but didn’t grasp its weight until now.

You think about what it would actually mean to live morally, on a practical level. You couldn’t justify any personal expense other than your most basic needs. You must cause the least harm possible, and create the most joy possible.

This would apply to your time as well as your money. Therefore, being moral necessarily takes all of your time, which is to say you must give your entire life to it.

So you do. All suffering is now your suffering, all joy is now your joy. You feel free, for the first time.

You give up ownership of all your possessions. You cannot think of anything as your exclusive property. Nothing can be yours unless it is everyone’s.  Read More

[If you can’t see the pictures, view this post here. Press F11 if the images are too large for your browser.]

When I try to describe how I feel here, all that comes out is clichés — there’s a certain energy here, it’s a buzzing pot of humanity, it’s so diverse, so rich with potential experiences, too vast to comprehend, a city with ten million stories, or any other inadequate language you might find in the intro section of a Lonely Planet.

I heart NY, I really do. So many have said so, and with words as my medium there’s little I can add that isn’t already a part of your consciousness, whether you’ve been here or not. I hope that photographs, though, might begin to relate something beyond the cloud of familiar superlatives that surround anyone’s account of this amazing place.

Take your time. Enjoy. Read More

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