29 December, 2008

Should I feel bad about things?

Through talking to others over the years, I’ve learned that what I think of as my “conscience” is very different from the ordinary person’s conscience. While it is true that I do feel badly about certain things from time to time, they are almost never the same things that others continue to maintain that I should feel badly about.

Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly down, I look back on events from my past that I honestly regret:
But other things, things that I intellectually realize are horrible in the extreme, are items that I feel almost nothing about at all. It is as though these events, while real, have no guilt component embedded in them, unlike the events listed in the earlier bulleted list. Still, though I feel no guilt, intellectually I understand that they are negative to some degree or another, and thus I take care to ensure that they never happen again. But no matter how many measures I take, one fact remains: I do not feel bad about having done them.

Some of these items include:
  • losing control of my temper and destroying a dorm window w/ my bare hand, leaving others to pay the bill
  • making fun of a fellow classmate nehind her back (longtime readers will remember her as Total Recall) just because I felt she was not a particularly ‘deep’ individual
  • being physically violent with others in a most cruel and continual way during my first few formative relationships
But there is another class of items I do not feel bad about: things that, for one reason or another, I feel justified in not feeling badly about. Like looking at breasts, for instance. As I explained in detail in my feminist blog entry a few weeks back, I do not consider the looking at breasts to be a negative thing, despite the fact that I consider myself a fully fledged feminist. While some may believe that breast-gazing is equivalent to objectifying the generic female person, I disagree halfway: I think it objectifies only the female form, and so long as the gazer respects the person within that form, then no harm is done by looking. (Unless the recipient doesn’t wish to be looked at, in which case surreptitious gazing is a borderline case.)

But there are other items as well, including:
The above list is just a sample of the many things I continue to do to this day, even while others I talk to continue to insist that it would feel wrong to them. Hearteningly, everyone seems to agree with me on one or two items, yet disagree on others–yet everyone seems to think different things are right. I should mention that I have what I think are rather good reasons for each of the above: many recently popular books have been written on how religion ruins society, for example, and the only real argument for me to pay special attention to those related to me by blood is because they share genetic material with me, and that’s got to be the lamest excuse ever. But even with these well thought out explanations, very few people have agreed with me on all points.

To tell the truth, this diversity of opinion makes me happy. Personally, I think engineering is exceedingly boring when compared to theoretical physics, but I fully understand that engineers are needed for physicists to work their magic. It’s a good thing that different people have different things they like. Yet I still appreciate beyond measure the rare individual who shares my thoughts on these issues. For it is only with those such people that I can ever fully let my guard down and participate openly, as equals.

And that is an experience that I will always treasure.


  1. I have long thought that philosophers, for example, come to their conclusions before developing their reasoning. You think things are right or wrong by some compelling forces within yourself, no matter how much you appreciate reasoning to the contrary. But that’s not what this is about, is it? You know this, and know that conversely, even if someone is intelligent and can appreciate your reasons for believing these things, they might still not sympathize, emotionally, with your thoughts. Your concluding sentence is ambiguous. It could be exultant — if you have found such an “experience” — or a cry of loneliness, if you are strongly feeling its absence. (For some reason I’m leaning towards the latter.)

    Sorry for not helping.

  2. Did you need me to poke some holes in your reasoning? I thought my surrogate was taking care of that, but it seems that you’re toting about too much certainty these days.

  3. Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.