If I am a vegan, I am good. I cause less pollution, animals don’t suffer, and now I deserve my spot in the category of good. Most people will agree that it is a good thing to do. Still, our modern western culture is obsessed with these badges of goodness.
There are many more or less controversial themes we could pick. I am not propagating being vegan or not. My intention is to see how this good/evil duality works. How being “good” keeps us from becoming great.
After Miles Davis recorded “Kind of Blue” in 1959, he made it big time. It is the best selling record in jazz history. Recorded in a couple of sessions it shows absolute mastery in improvisation over very simple but beautiful structures. Miles Davis could have kept playing like that the rest of his life and have become rich and respected. But he was an artist. His values were creativity, contribution, risk taking, exploration, rebellion, and being constantly new and fresh on the cutting edge of music. So he turned his back on his success and changed his style. Now all his listeners had to keep up. Once they did, he was no longer crazy for having made the change. But Miles would change again. Over and over, he risked his whole career for a vision, an idea, music only he heard in his head. Bravery, excellence, artistic integrity, leadership, genius: are all to be found in abundance when you look at his body of work.
While he did this, he cheated on his wives, did hard drugs, slapped women around, crashed his car drunk, pimped women, and was a terrible father to his sons. Still, the merit of what he was exceptional at is undeniable, and that combined with such a fighter’s heart. He was rough on his young fellow musicians too, getting the best out of them.
You can go back and hear how ahead of his time he was, and his iron conviction was there, no matter how crazy the music sounded to the “Kind of Blue” nostalgics.
Now was Miles Davis a vegan? So he polluted more than Bob Marley? Do you see how shallow and meaningless goodness looks in the presence of greatness? This is the discourse all around us nowadays. We are all running after cheap virtue credit points like they were Pokemon. If you can only convince the world that you are good by being anti-this and pro-that, doors will open. The good intentions overflow, but it is a path of cheapening the mystery of life. It has been leading us all the way to cancel culture and closer to a tyrannical society with social credit points like they have in China.
There is the nuance-free, dualistic good-evil paradigm, and then there is GREATNESS. I personally think that someone with a vision and a reason for striving is much more beneficial to the world than someone who is merely focused on virtues like anti-that and pro-the other. They would not need all those parole-like issues if they had found a connection within themselves to something higher.
Most people are followers. It is just the way it is. We are herd animals. People probably laughed at the Wright Brothers before their first plane took off. Most people will avoid the stress of chasing a dream, going against the stream; but we all enjoy air travel. Every gadget and invention we enjoy today was a result of someone crazy enough to dedicate their lives to a dream.
Greatness is trying to blossom in every heart. That is why Miles Davis blew us all away. What he did was hard to do. We know it, it shapes an ideal in our minds, it is daunting and inspiring. He went beyond good and evil into greatness. He lived his truth without apologies.
That said, would it have been better if he had not taken all those drugs, slapped women around, and all that? Yes, he left a lot of pain and destruction in his path. So I am not applauding that at all. I am saying that if greatness takes a hold of you and raises you up, being vegan or not becomes as banal as it should be.
No one is on your side when you want to get laid. The church is against you, mass media, your friends, her friends, the educational system. If you make the effort to improve in this area, it requires you to sooner or later take a hard ego-killing look at yourself. It is hard to do; it is so much easier to not even try. Anybody who has done a cold approach has a reason to be proud of themselves. Most people have never done it.
“I don’t want to disturb, I don’t want to offend, I don’t want to intrude”. In our age, we are haunted by loneliness like never before. I get it that you don’t want to disturb people. But it is a bit like the choice to be vegan and save the planet, or record crazy sounding “Bitches Brew” with electric instruments while everyone wants you to stay where you are and judge you as a sellout.
To be a great person is hard. It means discipline, sacrifice, conviction and high levels of frustration-tolerance. It is much more comfortable to just appear to be good. What if really being great also means some people will see you as evil? Because you stand for something, you are willing to die for something, they can’t understand. Go beyond good and evil, apologize if you step on some toes, but don’t let petty stuff stop you from reaching your mountain top. Greatness is on the other side of pain.