When I write the title for this little meditation, part of me wants to become cynical and say, “yeah, sure! It is easier to think about those times the rascals and the bad guys seemed to prosper…and sometimes at the expense of the good guys. Most recently, one thinks of Bernie Madoff who literally “made off” with some fifty billion dollars of other folks’ money. When you see the words, Ponzi scheme, grab your wallet!
My cynicism is tempered, however, when my mind drifts back to a book my friend wrote: Why Good Things Happen to Good People (2007). The book begins engagingly with these words, “If I could take one word with me into eternity, it would be ‘give.’” My friend is not some kind of quack. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has taught at Case-Western---even in the medical school there---and has since moved on to a sweet spot at an eastern university.
Essentially, the book is a primer in learning how to give---to give yourself. The argument contends that when you learn to do this, happiness is coming your way. And of course, the key way to give of yourself is through love. Perhaps we all have heard the dictum, “the more you give, the more you get.” Half the time I believe this. Or maybe, I half believe this to be true all the time.
When you get into the heart of the book, the teachings are not that unusual. There is talk of forgiveness, generativity, and humor. I am for all three of those, knowing full well forgiving is not always easy and generativity is not something I can do at the snap of the fingers. If you don’t like the language of generativity, think creative or originating. In other words, don’t get stuck in a rut. Even if you do routine, figure out how to do it with creativity.
Chapter lists go on: listening, respect, loyalty, and compassion. Again, there are no surprises. And then I realize I am beginning to get it. If I can muster a life with these qualities, I am more in control of who I am and how I am living. Or if I put it in spiritual language, the Spirit, which lives in and through me, is shaping my life. If I can begin to live life this way, then the way others live their lives and treat me matter less. They cannot control me if I am living spiritually.
It actually sounds a little like Jesus (and probably the Buddha, Hindu sages, Sikh masters, etc.). The book is full of scientific back-ups that doubly convince me it is not hokie stuff. I like the way my friend, Stephen Post and his co-author, Jill Neimark, conclude their work. “The science now gives me confidence to say what I always felt: a loving life is the only credible way of life.”
“That’s sneaky,” I think. It is sneaky to say a loving life is the only “credible” way. Credible is rooted in the Latin word, credo, which does mean to “believe.” This will sound strange, but that means Bernie Madoff, therefore, lived an incredible life---literally “unbelievable.” “That’s right,” I exclaim. His life was incredible---incredible, not in the way one talks about a move LeBron James makes on the basketball court, but incredible in the way that suggests he is a liar and one really should see Madoff as not to be believed.
I am not going to be playing at LeBron James’ nor Bernie Madoff’s level. But I can begin to work on my giving. I can work with the basics: compassion, respect, creativity, etc. I can learn to do them in little ways in my routine ways. Be wary of the incredible! My friend and co-author keeps saying, “don’t lie, cheat, or steal.” That is pretty basic stuff.
Today I begin. I will be a good person…and good things will begin to happen.