I haven't seen Herschel in a while. Herschel lives across the street, has one bum leg, fought in the Korean War, and has been known to go off his meds from time to time ... once to such an extent that he took an ax to the front doors of various neighbors he thought were assholes. I always felt somehow gratified that he didn't take an ax to my door while the doors to the left and right of my house were trashed.
Anyway, I haven't seen Herschel in a while. I think age may be catching up with him and he is waiting, as many old people wait, in the silences of his own house. It's snowing today and I doubt that Herschel will be out with his snow blower as he has been in so many years past ... limp or no limp, age or no age, pushing the snow blower. Crusty old bastard!
Gloria, an aging short woman from down the block, seems to have taken Herschel under her wing. She comes and goes on errands whose intent I cannot guess. Helping Herschel ... helping ... helping... helping. And for all I know, she is helping. But there is something about Gloria that makes me feel that she is not so much helping Herschel as she is helping herself, raising her own stock of goodness at the expense of someone else. A Christian kindness, perhaps or maybe it's Jewish. Anyway it's goodness of a kind others might recognize as goodness ... goodness that might be praised.
All of this may be my imagination based on flimsy evidence, but it makes me realize how irritable I can get when being around people who are determined to be 'good.' 'Good' people always have an excuse -- they are doing what is socially profitable, what is beamed upon ... no one can fault them as thinly-veiled egotists because, after all, they are doing 'good' works. The tendency -- whether true or untrue in the current instance -- makes me recognize how irritable I can become about show-offs.
Everyone plays let's-pretend before they actually get the knack of something. Buddhists take precepts. Christians praise kindness. News articles encourage volunteer-ism. Let's pretend we are better than we are before we are actually better ... which is to say, in no need of halos or smug satisfaction. It's a phase which, with luck, we can outgrow. Imagine how much less Mother Theresa might have accomplished if, after each good effort, she had wondered whether it was good or not.
With luck, the phony-baloney inspires true baloney. But in the meantime, it can be a titty-twister ... butter-wouldn't melt-in-his/her-mouth kind of stuff.
Goodness, my ass!