Goodness: Beyond the Concept of Threat
I read a book the other day in which an interview with Lourens Van Der Post was described.
Apart from many questions put to him, he was asked about an old man named Maqubu who worked with Ian Player the well known South African environmentalist.
The interviewer asked about an important message that Maqubu could give to us today. Van der Post responded: “The people who go out with him in to the wilderness come back completely changed. With Maqubu you immediately feel that you are in the presence of a new sort of man, a new sort of human being because just to be with him makes you feel good; something just comes out of him which is pure goodness and harmony. It just flows out of him.”
I was deeply touched by this, perhaps by its sheer simplicity and ease.
Sad to think of how human goodness has been essentially defined and invoked mainly through threat, particularly through our religious systems of belief. The message is always clear - God demands, we must obey, or else; out of that we exercise our goodness, and God help you if you don't.
What has this done to people over the years? Surely, conscience needs space to unfold and mature, and, when it is forever oppressed and dictated to, it remains undeveloped, immature and permeated with self-interest, self-righteousness and an “us and them” syndrome.
Not only does it believe that it has a monopoly over all moral judgement, but that it also has the right to decide on others’ behalf what is good and what is bad for them. An open look at history reveals just how warped this view of goodness is. Tragically, it has done much to divide the human family causing enormous amounts of pain and suffering.
To espouse goodness for the sake of goodness without any sense of reward, is the challenge. There’s something wonderfully courageous and noble about such goodness. I remember asking a group of people how they would feel if there was no heaven. Virtually everyone responded with, “Well, what’s it all about then? Why all this striving for good? We may as well do what we please.” The motive was clear. Their responses said it all.
Surely, true goodness is reward in itself, simply doing what is right and experiencing its enhancing power in oneself, and in all of life. Rumi, thegreat Sufi poet said it: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
I think Maqubu lived in that field.