“Why do you call me good?” – Jesus
If Jesus refused the adjective good, what makes good the measure of a person’s value today?
Consider New Year’s Resolutions. We chart our course for the new year with promises to ourselves that we will be better at something, stop doing other things, and begin what we have put off. Our hope is to have a good year. We grade ourselves by weighing promises kept over against those broken for one reason or another.
And, often we stop the charade before the end of January.
A Question of Performance or Character?
The question, “What makes a good man?” may be re-framed, “What makes a man good?” Certainly you will understand man as signifier for human beings. The question is non-gendered. “What makes a good person? What makes a person good?”
Is it the character of the deed or the manner of the lived life? Is it both? Or neither?
A Film’s Exploration
The Good Man is about guilt, responsibility, and the attempt to live with dignity in the face of impossible circumstances. It is about the logic of violence; both random (an accident) and structural (a politics) writ large on two individuals living very different lives. It is about how small the world is – how we connect with, or impinge on, each other. It engages personally with the abstract economics which continue to shape the struggle of people to change their world, and asks, ultimately, a simple question without a simple answer: in the middle of all of this, what on earth does it mean to be good?
Too often we evaluate a person independent of circumstances, of context. We err when we do. The structures of life make it impossible not to consider our interrelatedness not just with those in our families and local communities, but literally around the world.
Here is the film trailer,
Degrees of Separation – Connections of Goodness?
Variety considers Harrison’s work idealistic. Maybe if you prefer your world without possibility. But, if you long for a world where good matters, then the film, and its questions are not so much a reflection of idealism as a dose of reality.
I could not help but think of the documentary, The Examined Life, where Slavo Zizek suggests that beauty is found in the garbage of life. Most of us prefer to go through life unbothered and unexamined when it comes to the ways in which our lives intersect others about whom we know nothing and may never meet. To take up an interest in living differently requires a consideration of the good, and goodness, as a virtue rather than an impossibility.
Again, “Why do you call me good?” — Jesus