I thought about bad behavior yesterday as I walked around. It's an appropriate train of thought on Yom Kippur, after all.
One thing I often wonder about is whether animals have within them an urge to be better - whatever that means - like we do. Do dogs reflect, for instance, on how they could have peed higher on the tree or think to themselves they should have barked more loudly at the mailman? Dogs do feel remorse, but it seems more like they're unhappy that we're unhappy. Dogs appear miraculously unashamed of their behaviors.
They say horses are psychologically a lot like us. Do they think about standing tall, running fast, or are they more zen in the moment of their behavior? It's obvious that some animals have very complicated psyches. From what I hear about elephants, they might be into self help like we are.
We humans are way into the idea of striving to be better - smarter, more accomplished, famous, rich, beautiful, etc. Is this instinctual, too? Is it a form of pack hierarchy behavior?
Clearly I've done a lot of thinking about our striving to be good. Likewise I am always entertained by thoughts about what we consider to be bad behavior. I'm not talking about the extremes of evil. That is a pathology of imbalance. Sometimes I think we look to Hitler, et. al. in an attempt to diminish the shame we feel about our relatively mild misbehaviors. Compared to Hitler, most people are angels!
Everyone lies, steals, kills (the food chain is a bitch no matter how refined your diet might be). Everyone cheats, manipulates, gossips, argues. As with everything else we humans believe somehow, if we just try hard enough, we can escape normal human behavior. Or maybe we just think we should try.
I think we have to try to be kind, compassionate. We have to try to acquire wisdom. I don't hold out for shining perfection from any of us, but that should never stop us from trying. I am not a cynic. I like it that humans are complicated, that we struggle and try so hard to be good. I love our pangs of conscience when we've behaved badly. We are a noble species, by and large.
One thing that came to me yesterday is that almost all of my bad behavior, through my sixty years, has been the result of fear and/or a stomach ache. The one major exception is the soul loss period when I was bound up by doing way too much magic. It's interesting to think about.
A glorious Sunday to you complicated humans. Shalom.