Last week marked the end of one of my favorite shows, Michael Schur’s “The Good Place.”
I’ll try not to spoil the series, as it’s one I believe everyone should watch. But the show, despite its sitcom format, asks very deep questions of its audience. What are we doing on Earth? What makes life matter? And, the question referenced in the show several times, what do we owe to each other?
As an Ursinus student, this question should sound familiar, as it’s one of the core tenets of CIE. Complex moral discussions are a cornerstone of the Ursinus ethos, and yet I as an individual find it exceptionally difficult to navigate these questions in everyday life. Outside of classroom theory, these questions can seem almost irrelevant.
One character on The Good Place, Chidi, seems to know everything there is to know about moral philosophy. He’s a professor who has read every book on the subject, and mulled over every conceivable moral dilemma in his mind. However, when it comes to real life, Chidi has incredible difficulty making even the most basic of decisions. In this way, the show is illustrating that our actions matter far more than our theories when it comes to doing right in this world.
Among the most noteworthy aspects of The Good Place is that no decision is without some form of consequence. When people make decisions in life, there is a point system attributed to each decision. A deed like giving flowers to your mother, which 500 years ago might have been awarded a positive point value, today might be awarded a negative point value because the purchase of those flowers could be promoting child labor in Yemen. In a society that rewards capitalistic consumption, there is no way to truly do the right thing.
So where do we go from here? Well not to spoil the show, again, but there is something to be said for the act of trying. The goal, instead of achieving a perfect point value, might be to do what you can. When you see litter outside, pick it up. When mail is sent to the wrong mailbox, give it to the person to whom it belongs. The world can be a good place, as unbelievable as it may seem, if only we try to help one another. That is what we owe to each other.