Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life and that to destroy, harm, or to hinder life is evil. Affirmation of the world — that is affirmation of the will to live, which appears in phenomenal forms all around me — is only possible for me in that I give myself out for other life.
We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person or any one class. But we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all People and all classes contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having.
Great is the issue at stake, greater than appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will any one be profited if, under the influence of money or power, he neglect justice and virtue?
If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.
Great is the issue at stake greater than appears whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will any one be profited if under the influence of money or power he neglect justice and virtue?
If God is God He is not good, If God is good He is not God; Take the even, take the odd, I would not sleep here if I could Except for the little green leaves in the wood And the wind on the water.
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
The argument has long been made that we humans are by nature compassionate and empathic despite the occasional streak of meanness, but torrents of bad news throughout history have contradicted that claim, and little sound science has backed it. But try this thought experiment. Imagine the number of opportunities people around the world today might have to commit an antisocial act, from rape or murder to simple rudeness and dishonesty. Make that number the bottom of a fraction. Now for the top value you put the number of such antisocial acts that will actually occur today. That ratio of potential to enacted meanness holds at close to zero any day of the year. And if for the top value you put the number of benevolent acts performed in a given day, the ratio of kindness to cruelty will always be positive. (The news, however, comes to us as though that ratio was reversed.) Harvard’s Jerome Kagan proposes this mental exercise to make a simple point about human nature: the sum total of goodness vastly outweighs that of meanness. Although humans inherit a biological bias that permits them to feel anger, jealousy, selfishness and envy, and to be rude, aggressive or violent, Kagan notes, they inherit an even stronger biological bias for kindness, compassion, cooperation, love and nurture — especially toward those in need. This inbuilt ethical sense, he adds, is a biological feature of our species.
We frail humans are at one time capable of the greatest good and, at the same time, capable of the greatest evil. Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.
Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.
Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long.