It’s been a pleasure to watch you growing up these last few years. It’s been a privilege to watch your parents sort out the larger humanitarian questions and fundamental concepts around your spiritual and emotional education. You’re a beautiful young man, with a wicked dry sense of humor and a glowing compassionate heart. You. Are. A. Treasure.
What can I possibly say on the matter of becoming a good human being? What milestone is the metric to which that comparison will be made again and again as you go out and participate in the world at large?
I worry that claiming my version of “good” will imply all others are “not good” so from now on I won’t call it good or bad. I won’t intend male or female binary statements in the qualifier of the following, but will say instead; we are all, all of us, attempting to live our most noble lives and achieve our best character expressions with what we have been given or have learned.
The first step, I believe, is discovering and empowering your personal nobility, which is neither male nor female. It is neither good nor bad. It is however, yours and yours alone. It is specific to you. Some will call it honor. Be wary of that label, honor. It is steeped in toxic gender histories and a multiverse of religious interpretations. One person’s banner of honor is another’s claim to cruelty or oppression. (See honor killings, war, female sexual oppression, familial obligation, and so on—all falling under someone’s claim to honor).
Honor and personal nobility can be similar in nature, but your personal nobility is self-made. It is neither inherited, or absorbed by conditioning. Neither is it subject to the control dynamics of others, or the baggage of obligation. It is yours, designed by you, practiced by you, owned entirely by your own will. Personal nobility is able to evolve, learn and stretch to include those new learnings. Honor can be rigid, breakable, and it is often flawed by near-sighted logic failure.
Another way to look at the difference is that personal nobility requires questioning, upkeep, and at the very least occasional evaluation from which new personal revolutions emerge.
It should also be mentioned that while someone may attempt to impugn your honor or place value statements on what they believe your honor should be—no one can impugn your personal nobility, save you. You are the only judge and measure by which your nobility is quantified.
It is similar to integrity. It is inherently intertwined with the fabric of your character and will, if you choose, never be totally separate from your decisions, actions, and the weight of your convictions. The answers will always be what you can or cannot live with. What you can or cannot abide by. What you can or cannot affiliate yourself with. What you can or cannot own to be a part of.
So now you’ve got Personal Nobility, your molten metal core. Now what?
I’d like to tell you the world is a safe and peaceful place. Instead, I will tell you it is magical, dynamic, exhilarating, terrifying, and gloriously inconsistent. It is breathtakingly diverse, magnificently unpredictable, and there is nothing quite like drawing breath each morning and knowing the profound gratitude of having this blue planet playground to explore. What are you waiting for?
With personal nobility as your axis of gravity, all else is moving. There is no right or wrong moment to engage, except those dictated by your core. The complexity of this world is so fierce, so passionately interwoven—it is nearly impossible to take a step, draw a breath, or blink in the rain without causing an action upon the quantum reality in which you are trying to become fully realized—so the trick to being a human….is to remember that we are all human. We are all in a perpetual state of becoming.
I’ll step inside here to say, as a writer I get to bring a million types of characters to life with my words. I get to paint with broad, flat strokes the images we think we humans make—but the truth is, humans are so immensely complex, so infinitely faceted, that you could spend a thousand summers trying to understand them, and they will still surprise you in the most unexpected ways. Some will break your heart with cruelty, and others will destroy you with raw beauty—and you may end up thanking them both in the end. See? Unpredictable.
I can only say from my own experiences, but in matters of human complexity my experiences with evil, bigotry, -isms, hatred, xenophobia, and all the darker aspects that we are both capable of, and exposed to simply by being—do not stem from a vacuum of goodness. No, they exist, flourish, even thrive on fear.
Fear seems to be the inception point where the darkest qualities of humanity emerge and wreak havoc on communities, evolution, relationships, nations, and the greater part of our shared collective experience. Fear is the primordial goo in which our primitive selves have still not learned to grow legs and walk. You could say fear is the root of all evil—but I would argue that it is the stew of all HUMAN darkness.
You are not exempt. I am not exempt. No one is exempt from fear. It may manifest as narcissism. It may show itself as violence. It may bloom into being through control dynamics, toxic behavior patterns, and oppression. You have the capability of being in fear, and the capacity to spread fear.
The antithesis of fear is love.
Love may be the most courageous thing you will do in your entire life.
Loving even those people who don’t seem to deserve it, is an act of courage.
Now, let’s be clear—loving those foul bastards who commit grievances, acts of cruelty, fear, and violence—loving them doesn’t mean you have to invite them over for brunch and serve them on your best china. I mean, it might. That’s up to you. It’s a call your inner nobility will make.
What I mean by loving those who do us injury is, not reflecting their fear back to them.
Does that make sense? Love in the most powerful acceptance of totality is knowing they are flawed, terribly, awfully, pitifully so—and not letting that knowledge rip you up inside. It’s about not letting their torment in. Love them but LOVE YOURSELF MORE, and they will take their fear and go elsewhere. Reflecting their hate, or fear, or violence will make them more powerful, like condensing a sunbeam through a magnifying glass onto an ant---only you’d be the ant and you wouldn’t even know it.
That same reflection process can be used in love and acceptance for a similar, often more potent effect.
How you ask? Well, I’ll let you know when I get that part nailed down. See? I’m still human, still working on my process too. I still yell at the asshole who cuts me off in traffic—so, all I can say on the matter is it’s a theory in progress, but the greater practice as a whole shows exciting promise.
I will tell you this though, the part about love being the most courageous thing you will ever do—that part is 100% true. Strangely, one of the most difficult people to love is ourselves. How odd, right? I mean, we are wired for survival—and love is part of survival. We need love, and yet the vast majority of this human population secretly (or not so secretly) loathes their own company. Most people hate their body, their hair, their voice, their actions. How heartbreaking. We live in fear of ourselves, and reflect that fear upon anyone and everyone in our immediate circle.
I might go so far as to say the most radical act of courage left on this planet is genuine self-acceptance and love. Even I don’t have that courage yet, but writing to you makes me realize I need to get on that.
Love in romance, partnership, community, family, and friends. Love for your world, your animal companions, the stars and the sky, the oceans and forests—it all has the ability to blow your mind. The first time you stare into a person and see them, really see them, and love them for all their flawed imperfections, in fact, because of their imperfections—the first time you fall into that kind of love it’s like seeing the face of divinity. If you don’t believe in god/goddess—that moment might make you question what infinity really is.
Perhaps the answer is that love IS divinity? But we’ll wax long and theological someday when you’re old enough to have a dram with me and ponder the nature of totality.
Until then, I truly wish you the greatest adventures on the quest for your own answers around the living expressions and experiments in Fear and Love. I wish you compassion, curiosity, an open-heart, and a willing spirit. Good luck, Firefly.
As to any nuggets for the journey I will throw in these gifts from my teachers.
Learn and understand the differences between moral, ethical, and legal. Your inner nobility may look like an elaborate knotwork between them all. You make your own lines. They are yours to draw now. That’s what becoming an adult human is. You draw your lines, live in those lines, then reevaluate and draw them again.
Ethics uphold the rights and autonomy of all involved to the best possible degree.
Morals should be ethical, but often are not. IE: It was once morally acceptable to own and keep slaves. It was also legal, because the moralists who believed in slavery, legislated it. But it was never once, even in the smallest fraction ethical. See?
And you would think that legal would be both moral and ethical, but it is not always the case. The law has a lag time, and is often affected by moral judgements or honor pronunciations of religious affiliations that are long out of date. IE: It was once legal for a man to beat or rape his wife—it was also morally acceptable. But it never was, nor will it ever be ethical.
Knowing the differences in these codes will help you define your own. You get to be the one who decides if you are moral, legal, or ethical so long as you keep in mind you are working with humans, and we are all trying to get to a better version of ourselves. We don’t have it all sorted just yet. Be patient. Work on your own nobility, and let others design theirs.
In the words of my old DM in the RPG group I played with. “You’re either lawful, chaotic, or neutral. Unless you’re Athena, who decided to write in ‘None of the Above’.”
To be fair, I think the exact wording on my character sheet was, “N/A. These over-simplified tropes fail to accommodate for the complexity of character range in a myriad of complicated opportunities. I refuse to be forced into a cardboard character profile…” Or some such similar rubbish like that.
Anyhoo, the point I’m trying to make is this:
You are not only one or the other. You are not only this or that. There is no you or them. You are a human, and therefore contain multitudes. You become what you do. You become what you say. Your actions define your character, over and over again, and your character is defined by the nobility you design for yourself. You do the best you can as often as you can. And when you can’t, you don’t. Then you try again the next day.
You’ll mess up. We all do. I mess up all the time. I lose my temper or get scared and snarly.
Say you’re sorry, and try to do better—that alone will put you miles and decades ahead.
The good or bad of it is only what you allow yourself to own, and what you resolve to improve upon.
When you leave your parents’ home, you can no longer claim their nobility or flaws as yours. When you join society as an independent, you can no longer blame, shame, or give away your responsibilities.
That part when you pick up your own baggage and make your own way…that’s the part when you get to decide if you are a good/bad/ man/woman/person or N/A.
Adulthood is only earned when you realize you can’t blame your upbringing anymore. Adulthood is only earned when you step out from what you were taught, and decide for yourself what the answer should be—then remake yourself accordingly. That might mean making amends, apologies, or requests for forgiveness. Adulthood happens when you are grateful for what you were given, appreciate the foundation upon which you were begun—but you’re ready to take the human story farther than those before you were ready or able.
Your journey into adulthood begins, but it may take years for you to realize the feeling of being “adult”. In the country we live in, boys and girls are sent to fight and die in wars declared by men who’ve never bled. Adulthood isn’t stamped upon you with an age verification license, and access to a military grade semi-automatic rifle.
Adulthood is granted when you ask, think, question, and consciously CHOOSE for yourself. Others might not agree with your choice—it is yours all the same, and your right to it just as sacred. The right or wrong of the choice, the good or bad of it—that’s for your nobility and the ethics committees to sort out. The point is, adulting is making the decisions and standing prepared for the feedback.
Adulting is actively exercising your autonomy. Good or bad is up to you. I happen to know you, and have utter faith in your version of what good means, so I won’t lecture on that. Know you have my confidence, and you also have my respect and compassion when that goodness tilts or wobbles, because it might. I will adore you anyway, and your community will help you sort out a wobble if it happens. As hard as it is for some people to be honest about, I will be blunt and say—humans wobble. It is part of the journey.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the important things. I’m guessing I’ll think of something suitably useful and marginally brilliant only after I hit the send button, but that’s just how these things go, I guess. I hope you’re able to find some of this useful. Keep what works, and discard the rest. You know how to reach me for chats when there’s more talking to be had. I’m part of your community, always.
Perfection is overrated, and often at the expense of originality. Aesthetic beauty can be bought. That which is genuine has no price. Compassion and forgiveness neutralize nearly all inner turmoil. Dreams and visions are just realities that have yet to materialize for those who will love them into being. So, keep dreaming, keep loving.
And at the end of the day, this Universe is spiraling toward entropy—so don’t take it all so fucking serious. The joke is totally on us. Enjoy the ride.
Good luck to you, Firefly. Thank you for being ready and willing to take on the world for us who have so blithely bungled the whole of it. On behalf of all of us, I’m sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. That being said, I hope with all my heart you find the adventure of a lifetime in the process.