I’ve just begun dipping into The Good Book. It’s a secular bible compiled by British philosopher A.C. Grayling who has, to paraphrase the blurb, distilled the teachings, the insights, the wit, the advice, the human stories, the tragedies, the yearnings, the love, the sorrow and the consolations of over a hundred authors and a thousand texts into a humanist bible. No small task.
I do find it a tiny bit irritating that Grayling references none of these sources, however he seems more concerned with the message than the messenger and the message is that “All who read this book, therefore, if they read with care, may come to be more than they were before…To determine what the good is, and of the best ways to know it, is the most important of all our endeavours, and is truly the master art of living.”
I was initially discouraged by this. It sounds like a Star Wars script. But I will persevere.
The last section of the book is titled The Good. Here we find Grayling’s definition:
“1. The good is two freedoms: freedom from certain hindrances and pains, freedom to choose and act.
2. The first is freedom from ignorance, fear, loneliness, folly, and the inability to master one’s emotions.
3. The second is freedom to develop the best capacities and talents we have, and to use them for the best.”
This short chapter of merely 18 verses contains within it most of what I need to know about the good and it’s relevance to my life. The previous 593 pages will be an interesting long-term read perhaps, but the shortened version is condensed in verses such as these:
“5. There is not one single kind of good that suits and fits everyone: there are as many good lives as there are people to live them.
6.It is false that there is only one right way to live and one right way to be,
7. And that we must obey those who claim to have the secret of a ‘one right way’ and a ‘one true good.’
8. If there are guides to the good, one must eventually leave them behind and seek the good of one’s choice, and which suits one’s own talents.”
Or, if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him, as we used to say back in the day.
I inherited a powerful anti-authoritarian streak from my grandfather that’s made it impossible to relinquish my desire to think for myself. This makes me useless as a follower of just about anything or anyone, with the exception of Leonard Cohen. The faintest odour of theology or crypto theology and I’m on the outside looking in. I don’t believe in a transcendental exteriority.The best experiences in my life have been grounded in the human, as have the worst. I can think of no greater miracle than a human being.
1. Seek always for the good that abides. There can be none except as the mind finds within itself.
4. When will you attain this joy? It will begin when you think for yourself,
5. When you truly take responsibility for your own life.”