Thoughts about this week

When our participants are good, it makes our job easy. When they are not, it makes our job important. This week was easier but it was no less important. There are no weeks which are less important. ~ sgBen

Some sharing that I thought was worth mentioning this week.

Does society “normalise” people?

I had a discussion with a fellow colleague. His belief and teaching are for participants to think about what others would think of them if they did certain things. His belief is that society normalises people and bring them towards good. And by framing the teaching via what the larger community/society would think about them, people will be more aligned towards norms of society and hence goodness. For example, when participants choose not to clean up after themselves, he would educate them by asking them what would others think about them if they were to behave like this. Likewise, for other actions that they take. This, I believe, may be effective due to the profile of individuals that we deal with, but in my opinion, short-term and un-enduring. But I have to say, having read a topic on Moral Philosophy during my unfinished degree only taught me that it is not a topic which can be easily solved or understood.

I believe that there is an innate good nature in people and it has to be brought out. People have to reflect, reach down deep inside them and ask themselves what kind of person they want to be. As illustrated by Maslow, the highest tier of needs is self-actualisation. And like what the Chinese proverb goes, water flows towards the lower arena, while humans seek higher grounds to conquer. I believe that all typical humans want to be good (but what is good is debatable). But I do not believe that norms and communities will naturally tend towards goodness. It was accepted as a norm that blacks are to be slaves. It takes a few to lead the change that this should not be the case. It was considered a norm for men in ancient Roman to be sexually attracted to teen-aged males and females, but we all know today that perhaps that’s not the most morally sound idea. The counter-argument to this is that didn’t we realise it later and tend towards “goodness” as we know now? But my question would be how would did that took? And what makes one think that it is good considering that it was once thought to be “good and normal” for the extremes that we know now. All in all, I think culture is something that has to be managed and can swing from one extreme end to another. It may work when one is being drawn out from extreme groups and placed in a “normalising tank” as what we are doing now, but it has to be done intentionally and hence, not “normal and natural” since people are usually attracted to their own kinds. Furthermore, when these people return back to their own communities from the “normalising tank”, would I be more bothered with someone’s opinion from a distant past? Or would I be more concerned about the ones that I interact with daily? Hence as such, it is not sustainable for one to be taught to align their moral compass to whatever the masses think, but rather, the ability to think for themselves and decide what is good and what is bad. It does not mean to simply do what you think is right, but to be open to feedback, while reflecting on it yourself, reasoning it yourself and finally making a decision. The ability to think independently.

I always tell my participants that regardless of what they do, it must be driven from inside. For example, some of them want to achieve good results to please their parents. Then what if one day their parents die? Do they cease to be good? Perhaps that resulted in the invention of a transcendent life, where your parents who are no longer existing are still watching you, to compelling one to be good. Some of them choose to be good because they want to be accepted by their friends. In that case, if they were to be placed in the wrong group, then wouldn’t them cease to be good as well? So if one day, their parents encourage them to do bad, then will they simply follow suit? I believe that we all have this moral compass inside us that tells us what is right and what is wrong. However, this compass has to be aligned and cleaned from time to time through reflection.

“There are three ways in which we gain wisdom. The bitterest is via experience. The easiest is by imitation. And the noblest is by reflection.” – Confucius


“Missing out a checkpoint and mistakes in life”

My participants were on a mission to find some checkpoints. But as they walked, they missed out on one. I allowed them to continue walking until they realised it themselves. When they realised it, some were quick to say that it is okay and we should move on, even as they were earlier motivated to find it as it contains a place of interest.

I asked my participants if they felt that it was a mistake to have missed out the checkpoint. Many raised their hands. I asked them why did it happen. They said they weren’t paying attention. I asked them to relate this to life. And they told me that if they do not pay attention to the things that are happening around them, they will miss out in life. I asked them to illustrate what are some of the things that they could miss out. They mentioned about spending time with loved ones and opportunities. It was exactly what I wanted to teach them, but they taught themselves.

I asked them how many of them were more careful after missing out that checkpoint. Some raised their hands. I asked them why. They said it is because they did not want to miss out the next checkpoint. Then I asked them if in that case, are all outcomes from mistakes bad? They said no. I concluded with affirming that indeed like what they say, not all outcomes are bad. But some can be serious, and I shared some stories of how some of my acquaintances made some serious mistakes that have impacted them for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, some mistakes can prevent us from making bigger ones later in life, as they have discovered for themselves.

Like what Aristotle said about the golden mean – a virtue is a mean between extremes (i.e. being too generous is extravagant, being not generous enough is stinginess). And it is up to us to determine the balance.

There are more to share, but it would be too much for one post. I was more inspired this week. Hence I was able to inspire some of them. But in actual fact, it is they who have inspired me.

Thank you for the birthday card.

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