Mankind: Good, Evil, or None of the Above?

Are humans inherently good or evil? This question is so tied to what Community Benefit Organizations* are able to accomplish. And yes, humankind has pondered this question throughout recorded time.

But the Sunday comics gave me a flash of inspiration a few weeks back, and I just can’t seem to shake it.

That particular week, Pearls Before Swine was poking fun at another Sunday comic – the one with all the puzzles for young kids. Like anyone who grew up on the hidden pictures in doctors office Highlights magazines, I turned immediately to the parody of the “Can You Find at least 6 Differences Between These Panels?” on the right-hand side.

Because the answers are so tiny, I have reprinted them here:

1) First panel labeled “Panel 1,” and second panel labeled “Panel 2.” 2) In Panel 1, Rat feels an internal urge to punch Pig. In Panel 2, urge is diminished. 3)Panel 2 is below Panel 1. 4) There is a flying toaster in Panel 2. 5) and 6) There are no fifth and sixth differences. The question asked was “Can you find at least 6 differences between these panels?” The answer was no.

It was as if I had been struck by lightning. We are asked a simple question, and we scour both panels, “knowing” from the question that there are 6 differences to find. It never occurs to us that the answer might simply be “no.”

So, is mankind inherently good or evil?

Suddenly, my answer is “no!”

No, we are not inherently good or evil. We have the potential for both!

Every minute of every day, each of us chooses our actions. “Bad” people choose to do “good” things. “Good” people choose to do “bad” things. We are nothing but raw potential, every second having the ability to choose.

But my mind didn’t want to stop there. I started to wonder what other questions we have been answering from somewhere deep in our assumptions, not really hearing the potential in the question.

How should we solve the world’s problems? Can we really eliminate poverty? How can we resolve inequity and injustice? How can we end war?

And I cannot help but wonder if the reason we can’t seem to solve poverty or war is that these are simply the wrong questions.

So here are a different set of questions I have been considering:

How huge is our potential? Where do our possibilities stop? Where could curiosity lead us? What might we create if we believed everything was possible? What can stop us if we think nothing can stop us?

Life is pure possibility. We are creating the future with every breath we take and every word we speak. No inherent good. No inherent bad. Just whatever choices we make – raw, unbridled possibility.

So what questions will you ask today?

*Curious about our use of the term ‘Community Benefit Sector?’

Many thanks to Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, for the graphics here, for my mini-jolt of awakening, and for making me chuckle every week.

3 Responses to Mankind: Good, Evil, or None of the Above?

  1. Hildy:

    A very thought-provoking perspective. I guess we all like answers and certainty so we want there to be AN answer to every question. But that prevents us from looking deeper and exploring the broad range of answers and solutions that are available to us. Thanks for the insight; it will keep me on my toes and get me thinking about applying another perspective to the questions that come before me.
    And I wait every day for my Pearls before Swine!

  2. John:
    You are so right – both about our seeming need for certainty, and the need for comics! Thanks for the note!

  3. Reward goodness and charity, preserve justice by dispensing it equal to the degree of injustice. People say “an eye for an eye” is barbaric, but its beautifully simple. True equity and humanity for the world requires its leaders having the strength to meet evil head on and wipe it out, case by case. Paradox of course, is that most people who are much more good than bad, will not seek to spend their lives trying to hold sway over the rest of their kind. Politicians are almost without exception, evil by their very desire to dictate others’ lives. There’s no real way to win.