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Can You Open Your Door?

February 21, 2012

People talk a lot about the human soul. What is it? Where is it? What does it do? Where does it go? Where does it come from? Some believe in the human soul and others deny it but what I want to know today is where our human compassion is found. I want to know where our morality is found. Are these qualities in our heads, intellectual only, nothing more than the results of specific teachings and learning, or are compassion and morality a part of us, buried somewhere inside our being? Maybe somewhere next to our soul?

I also want to know what motivates us to help and comfort a dog or a cat in distress, which I admit is a good thing, but turn our backs on people in need?

I wonder if Kitty Genovese asked herself those types of questions as she lay dying 30 yards from her apartment door.

There are people who can sit in rooms day after day and discuss what should be done about different things until they’re blue in the face. They can take volumes of notes and dissertate and use big words, and at the end of the day they’re still sitting in a room with a stack of notes in front of them and they’re nothing more than one boring and disconnected person in a room full of bored and disconnected people. Worse, nothing is accomplished and in the end, they’re nothing but ineffectual people.

There are other people who do things because they know them to be the right things to do in life. They recognize their duty as human beings and members of a world community and they see their connection to others. Their actions in life aren’t motivated by what they receive in the end. In other words, they don’t help to put out a fire only to protect their own home and they don’t donate to a charity because of the thought of what they might receive back in return. These people act based on a moral law and a good will.

If I’m never anything else in life (which is very possible!) I hope I’m always a person who acts of good will and that I’m always one who will be willing to take responsibility when others are, for whatever reason, unwilling to act and react. I hope my decision to act or not act is never driven by thoughts of personal gain or reward and that I’m never held immobile by fear.

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” – Helen Keller

I’m sorry, but if I were better at philosophy then I’d be able to explain this all better, but I’m not so you’re stuck with what I have.

If you have thoughts on this I’d love to read them so please share them.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2012 12:59 pm

    Deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God.


  2. February 21, 2012 1:32 pm

    Unfortunately, just as some are born with physical disabilities, some are also born with mental and emotional disabilities. The sociopath, the psychopath…these people have souls that are malformed, if they have them at all.

    Those of us with a soul are compelled to help others in need at whatever level we feel comfortable.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      February 23, 2012 5:34 am

      Hi Sharon. I like the word “compelled” because to me it says we help not because we necessarily want to, but because we *have* to.


      • February 25, 2012 2:27 am

        Yep. Yep. This is exactly what I wanted to say. Some of us just have to.


  3. Bill Dunlap permalink
    February 21, 2012 7:46 pm

    Michael, I am very happy to tell you that the Kitty Genovese case has been disproved. The reality is that many people who witnessed it called the police. Several people ran to help her, but it was too late. The police could not arrive in time. The bystander effect has been disproven. However, it may take years before it is forgotten.

    We live by many myths, and one of them is that one person can make a difference. This is false. The reality is that one person can try to make a difference but that failure is always possible. We put ourselves on an impossible situation by feeling that we are responsible for each and every thing. One poor guy felt like he killed Kitty simply because he lived on the sixth floor, and it took too long for him to run down the stairs.

    We are also bound by other myths. Capitalism is one. We tend to blame the victims in this country. We blame the homeless because their jobs were sent out of the country. For our own sake, we need to examine these myths and abandon them.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      February 22, 2012 6:11 am

      Hi Bill, I know the Kitty Genovese incident had been disproved but I wasn’t aware that the bystander effect was myth. I agree that failure is always possible but on the same token, so is success. I don’t get how that reality means that one person can’t make a difference. I’m not talking about one person changing the world, although looking at people like Steve Jobs and Mohandas Gandhi – as well as others I can’t think of now – I think they might have, but one person making a change and I think that’s very possible. Granted it’s a movie, but the message is real; have you ever seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”?


      • Bill Dunlap permalink
        February 22, 2012 12:51 pm

        We place unreasonable expectations upon ourselves and then blame ourselves and others when we fail to live up to the impossible.


        • Michael Fishman permalink
          February 23, 2012 5:38 am

          I agree with that, but is the reality that we might fail a reason not to try and effect change in the world (or at least our corners of the world)?


  4. February 21, 2012 8:18 pm

    Lets hope we keep evolving.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      February 22, 2012 6:12 am

      My fingers are crossed!


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