Initial Conditions

We awoke this morning to the chatter of birds and the fiddling of crickets, a good way to wake! The sky is overcast; a west breeze moves through the house, ruffling papers. It picks up a few loose sheets and deposits them on the floor.

This was a week of more record heat and the week-to-come promises unseasonable warmth. The question these days is what constitutes “seasonal” in a time of rapid climate change? No one seems to have an answer.

This week I found myself reminded of a departed teacher’s insistence that we are each a product of our times, that we do our best, and that things are simply “as they are”. I suspect he was right, that we each do our best given the conditions we find ourselves inheriting. Sometimes the outcome is less than we had hoped.

The idea that we are each somehow doing our best suggests many questions, notably, “What about truly bad behavior?” “How are we to assign responsibility if even the worst acts arise from an individual’s attempts to do their best?” Surely, if we are each truly doing our best given the initial conditions of our births, we are served by maintaining a degree of kindness, generosity, and forgiveness towards ourselves and others.

As I write, I wonder: as we collective find ourselves in challenging times, how do we find a way forward that allows for radical change while being kind and generous? I find it odd to think that perhaps even that question must arise from the initial conditions of my being. I also strive to remember that initial conditions are subject to chance and may not determine final outcomes, and take heart in that.

4 thoughts on “Initial Conditions

  1. You raise a lot of interesting questions for me, Michael. It has worked for me to say that I forgive my childhood abusers (and enablers) because they were doing the best they could given their circumstances. Of course in our current political environment, can we say that all politicians are doing the best they can and thus deserve forgiveness? I either don’t have the goodness of heart to go that far, or it is something they don’t deserve.

  2. I wonder if I need to keep on trying to figure out how to be a better person when so many don’t seem to care about doing what is right – or would I be happier just living and doing whatever. It sure is hard being human (and humble, LOL)

    1. Hi Pat, I suspect that half of the task is to try to understand what it means to be “good” given who one is. I do not much trusty others’ ideas of good and bad. Being human is such a challenge even without all that terrible moralizing. At the same time, we do take moral positions and try our damnest to explain them and help them get some sore of foothold. I suspect that in the end we will discover that we did our best with a very poorly written operating manual.

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