Do your worst…

In times of moral crisis
the darkest places in hell
are reserved for the neutral

A well-known idea espoused since ages past by various individuals is, you’re only as good as you are at your worst. It is particularly relevant to the martial arts, where our skills are likely only going to be tested in the worst of scenarios. And that’s true in general — our survival instincts, the tough decision-making, our moral integrity, that faith (in ourselves) in the face of fear — they’re all tested during absolutely shitty situations when we have no food, no friends, no money, are stressed-out, are tortured, are intoxicated, etc. etc. A personal Sir Gawain and the Green Knight if you will… or Spirited Away… or The Game … or… ah whatever, you get the point. It sucks and 90% of people would seriously compromise their integrity right away.

Thing is, most people in society are fairly upstanding human beings. Because they’re… sorta neutral on issues. After all, it’s hard to make decisions when you’ll be blamed for the outcome, isn’t that right? So most people are fairly friendly and somewhat charitable when times are remotely good. But when times become hard, when the economy suffers (hint hint) and when tough decisions have to be made, it becomes much tougher to be a good person.

A good person though — what is that? It’s a pretty abstract term. I guess I’d say “good people” do not actively scheme or go out of their way to take advantage of others. A good person has chosen not to act unnaturally, not to act without a prior cause to respond to. A good person doesn’t mug someone else because they don’t have the emotional conviction to believe in such a cause. Sorry if my descriptions are pretty vague and generalized (not to mention biased), but that’s how it is.

It’s more reasonable to say we all exist somewhere on a “moral” scale, on a scale of Nietzschean drives. But drives don’t seem morally relevant except in hindsight. For even seemingly good people — don’t they sometimes have to choose to ignore the evils of their state or society in order to feed their families? Are they bad people too? Yes, they probably are. Maybe it’s a bad example, as I never understood the whole family-over-friends thing in the first place (I’m weird like that).

Still, there is no “worst” or “best”. There is only the present moment, young grasshoppa. But I do have to wonder… is it when people are at their worst, or when they’re neutral, that they’re dead?


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