Forgive the indulgence of an almost completely personal post. But, you know, something happened, and writing is a good way to deal with it.
The something: two days ago, at the gym, my bag was stolen. It had my phone, wallet, and keys.
First reflection: Getting robbed sucks. I don’t recommend it.
After 36 hours, though, things are a lot better. First off, the bag was recovered–the guy stole my phone and my (small amount of) cash, but left my keys, cards, and clothes in a bag that he chucked somewhere on the property. So the whole event is a lot more finite now: I canceled all of the cards last night (before the bag was found) and changed all of my passwords, so I think the damage will be constrained to the property loss–basically, the couple hundred bucks to replace the phone.
There’s also some perspective: A few other people had things stolen, including one person who lost their car. So my victimhood, while real, is relatively minor.
I’m not going to claim that all is wonderful and perfect in my head after this incident. It’s a violation, and that has an effect on your mental state.
The fact that this happened doesn’t mean that we’re living in a crapsack world. It just means that something bad happened.
I think there’s a tendency to assume that since something bad happened it justifies any action that you might take, no matter how bad. That idea has dominated some of my personal dealings in the past few years, and it’s dominated the national political discourse for at least a decade.
It’s lazy and it’s wrong.
I’m not saying that I plan to go through life pretending that this didn’t happen or couldn’t happen again. I’ve pieced together how the thief did it, so I know the loopholes that he exploited, and I can make sure that in the future they don’t still exist. I’m also not saying that I have renounced anger in general. I’m mad at this guy. If someone offered me him tied up and a large stick, I doubt I could resist taking a few whacks.
(I’ve heard that some teach that
But there is a line. I’m not going to assume that everyone I meet is bad like this guy. From there, it’s not even a step to thinking that since everyone is bad, there aren’t any rules of decency or humanity that apply. I think it would be easy to justify stealing, or much worse, if you first convince yourself that the person you’re doing it to deserves it. And if you convince yourself that all people deserve it, that step is already done.
And it’s factually untrue. The business where this happened, for example, has been behaving in a very human way, rather than endless referrals to a ‘customer service’ line. Or to bring this somewhat on topic: In my volunteer gig at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, I see a lot of the good side of humans. The annual Bugapalooza event is especially great–it brings in huge crowds, many kids, who are incredibly enthusiastic. They come in with some knowledge, but they’re eager to absorb more. Some of the most in-depth and intriguing questions I get throughout the year come during that day.
I guess what it comes down to is this: There is bad and good in life. The bad will find you on its own, while the good you have to seek out. Don’t do the bad a favor by seeking it out as well.