A friend of mine, a scholar of theology, brought me a book this week. I’m only about two chapters in, but I’m fairly certain it’s going to be life-changing if not life-shattering. The title and cover design are somewhat lacking in glamour (as theological books often are), but Also A Mother: Work and Family as Theological Dilemma by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore has already tempted me to commit the cardinal sin of writing in a library book. The first page of the preface contained this riff:
“Ultimately, this book defies rules that a good person just does not go around defying lightly. It defies the virtue of never hurting another person, which defines the “good girl,” and the virtue of unconditional love, which defines the “good woman” and the “good mother.” It defies the virtues of self-fulfillment and self-assertion, which define the “good feminist”; the virtues of independence, self-reliance, and achievement which define the “good man” and the “good worker”; and ultimately, the virtues of objectivity and detachment which define the “good scholar.”
Tonight I’m thinking about my own “goods” and wondering what would happen if you wrote (or painted, or composed, or photographed) about yours. What makes a “good boy”? A “good Christian”? A “good Asian”? (You know who you are– go for it, C. Write that essay. It’s kind of an assignment.) A “good depressive”? A “good American”?
Are you happy being that? What if you wrote in defiance of being the “good”? Or, just start with the title “How to Be Good.” See what happens.
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Okay, maybe this is cheating. But, I’d just dug up this old blog post earlier today because of a friends fundraising project regarding shoes, and I think it does an okay job of answering your question about “good.”
This is more about the complexity of how we elevate those who really live out the call (I’m thinking Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day) and then distance ourselves from them so we don’t have to live by that same standard of “good”.
As Dorothy Day said, “Don’t call me a saint, I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”
Here you go:
Thanks for sharing the post, Ariah. I appreciate the challenges it offers to our paradigms of “enough” and of “good.”