The odd thing about being a human being is that we mostly live out our lives in a state of absolute mad delusion. We set arbitrary boundaries and apply them as if they’re real. We create representative concepts and then treat the representation as if it’s real. We dutifully perform rites and rituals that have been handed down to us, which are totally divorced from any actual purpose they might have once served. And our standard for mental health is to be someone who does all of these things cheerfully and unquestioningly, as if being anxious or depressed is necessarily a state of dysfunction, rather than perhaps telling us something really important about the dislocation between the lives that our minds and bodies are meant for and the way that we most often live today.
Of course, what we’re “meant for” is an interesting question too. I think the question of whether God exists is really a question of meaning, and the meaning of meaning. That is, really, positing the existence of a divine creator and arbiter is really a declaration that meaning is inherent in the universe, that it wells up from a source like water from a spring. And I think that’s a comforting thought for people who are afraid that otherwise the world is cold and meaningless. But actually, you don’t have to believe that meaning springs from the font of a beneficent divinity in order to believe that meaning exists in the world. Because we can find meaning, make meaning, with the shape of our lives. And to me that is a much lovelier and friendlier concept than meaning being in the charge of some ineffable deity who hands it down from on high.
And since we’re social beings whose primary impulse is to create and sustain relationships, you’d think it would be an easy sell that the meaning of life is to love and be kind to one another. But there’s that wrinkle of the mad delusion, where we also have an unfortunate tendency think that imaginary concepts are as real and important as actual beings and the actual world around us.
So I think that’s maybe the root of good and evil, right there. We do good when we act for the benefit of each other and other living beings. And we do evil when we harm each other and other living beings, whether that’s for selfish benefit or for the sake of abiding by some arbitrary schema or to pay alms to the altar of some imaginary construct. That’s what corporate greed is, in a nutshell. That’s how the glass spires of financial empires are built. And of course the same could be said of any institution whose primary purpose is to serve its own interests first and its constituents second (and innocent bystanders not at all).