While I was in San Francisco, my friend Aaron recommended Christopher Hitchens’ “The Portable Atheist” to me while we were shopping in City Lights Books. I didn’t buy it there (more stuff to lug back) but I did get it when I got home and started reading it this morning since I finished up Michael Chabon’s “Maps and Legends” last night.
In Hitchens’ intro, there was a passage that resonated with me:
…the working assumption is that we should have no moral compass if we are not somehow in thrall to an unalterable and unchallengeable celestial dictatorship. What a repulsive idea! … [It] constitutes a radical attack on the very concept of human self-respect. It does so by suggesting that one could not do a right action or avoid a wrong one, except for the hope of a divine reward or the fear of divine retribution. Many of us, even the less unselfish, might hope to do better than that on our own. When I give blood, for example (something that several religions forbid), I do not lose a pint, but someone else gains one. There is something about this that appeals to me, and I derive other satisfactions as well from being of assistance to a fellow creature. Furthermore, I have a very rare blood type and I hope very much that when I am in need of a transfusion, someone else will have thought and acted in precisely the same way that I have. Indeed, I can almost count on it. Nobody had to teach me any of this, let alone reinforce the teaching with sinister fairy tales about appearances by the Archangel Gabriel. The so-called Golden Rule is innate within us, or is innate except in the sociopaths who do not care about others, and the psychopaths who take pleasure from cruelty.
Yuh-huh. Every time I donate blood, it’s not because I fear divine retribution. It’s because it’s something I can do that will help someone; it’s just considerate (like holding open a door for someone with a stroller, actually leaving a penny in the “give a penny/take a penny” cup, seeing that someone dropped their wallet/keys/money and returning it to him/her, allowing someone to switch lanes during crappy traffic, etc.). From there, it turns into a bad movie starring Haley Joel Osmont, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey.
Now, in the realm of things that don’t inspire my faith in humanity: automotive body damage.
While I was pulling away from the train station this evening, I heard a THUNK on the side of my car. I pulled over, got out, and took a look – little dent, little scratch… and a softball on the ground nearby. There’s a baseball field somewhat close by, but the field, diamonds, bleachers, etc. are all on the entire opposite side of where the train station is. But there was a little boy just throwing a ball around and he decided it would be fun to throw it TOWARDS the train station where there’s a fun wooden building. SILLY ME, letting my car get in the way of his ball-tossing. Silly commuters, all of us getting off of the train – it could’ve been any one of us. The kid saw me get out of the car, mumbled, “Sorry” and went back to playing. I inspected and rubbed away the dust with my finger, and shot him The Eye. This elicited an annoyed, “Sorry!” (if I’d been closer, I’m sure he would’ve been muttering something like, “Geez, lady” under his breath. That was the tone).
I replied, “Be careful. You don’t want to break someone’s window or put a big dent in someone’s car. It can be really expensive to fix.”
“Sorry.” (back to tossing the ball)
The woman sitting near him (mother? coach?) just looked at me, took a drag of her cigarette, and went back to watching the kids playing on the field across the way. Ugh. I did the “I’m disgusted” head shake, got back into my car, and drove off.
I got home, checked it out closely, cleaned it off, and will do the touch-up paint thing early next week. The next few days are going to be drizzly leading up to a “rain event” on Sunday. Rock.
There was going to be an Elton John song posted here, but that will wait for another day.