would my character survive survival?

i finished an incredible book called ‘the road’ by cormac mccarthy while on my travels in the UK. the book is a post-apocalyptic book about a man and his son trying to make their way south to 'the coast' where there is warmer weather and a chance to survive this ash covered world in which they live. it is quite a mystery as to where the man and his son are, and it remains so throughout the book. i theorize that they may be in a post nuclear world and almost all the inhabitants of the earth have died. the book is very much about endurance of the human will, the author said the inspiration for the book came from trying to imagine ‘what the city might look like in the future, and pictured fires on the hill.’ this book led me to many thoughts about the survival of mankind when faced with nothing but himself inside an empty world.

this book reminded me of another one of my favorite books of all time, a simple read called ‘lord of the flies,’ by william golding. the book is about a shipwrecked group of british school boys who must face a deserted island and try to sustain not only life but sanity & order. there are so many layered meanings in the book, but the overall theme is that when challenged with adversity, fear, and survival of self, mankind digresses to a barbaric nature.

so how do we as a people who come from a society where are basic core instincts are never tested? (please forgive my assumption that everyone reading this is at a financial level above absolute poverty, assuming you have a computer in which you are reading this on)

what am i really made of at the center of myself?

if faced with the most severe of circumstance will i have the character to maintain integrity that i think i possess?

i want to believe that at my center the best of people and that i would care more for mankind as a whole than i do for myself even in dire circumstances. i want to think that love conquers fear and deep down people are innately good. but upon reading the road, and rethinking ‘lord of the flies,’ i don’t know. its not that i don’t know if people are born ‘good’ it is that i don’t know if i am ‘good’. i have never been faced with the point of ‘how do i survive’, ‘where will i get my next meal,’ ‘where can i find shelter tonight.’ i have been blessed enough to be born into a family where we were raised in a first world country where these questions were never pondered.

how do we find the center of ourselves when paradise is not lost? maybe i will never know. but i also know life is not perfect; those i love will someday die, situations will not always be so optimal, and i can only pray that in the small moments of adversity and discouragement that i am faithful to react with character and altruism. hopefully maybe.


goodnightpunk said…
Good post. I remember reading Robinson Crusoe and book about the Donner Party in middle school and thinking about the same thing. I want to say that I am an altruist, but am I really? I want people to serve me, recognize me, stroke my ego. I think C.S. Lewis put it well when he wrote his poem, "As the Ruin Falls":
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

And I think that is my problem. I talk of altruism and love, but do I live it? Oftentimes, most likely not. However, with God's help, I can change. Be renewed.

So thank you, Stephen, for talking about something that always bugs me but is rarely brought forward.

Your friend,
Patricia M. said…
It always seems to come down to one of two basic beliefs: either that humanity is good by nature, or that mankind is inherently evil. Personally, I'm more likely to believe that human beings are born on a neutral ground and that its their surroundings and their experiences that shape them into the people that they are. If an individual has spent their life exposed to intense degrees of malice, cynicism, and corruption, I believe they are more likely to turn out "bad" than someone raised primarily in love, warmth, and empathy. I don't feel as though I'm totally on topic with what you're saying, but I tend to get a little sidetracked.
ted said…
finding the center of ourselves...hmm. i believe we are generally good-natured but no doubt self-centered. it goes back to the whole nature vs. nurture debate but i believe both biology and sociology play a part. like patricia said, if you grow up in some anguished, wrecked home/lifestyle, it's gonna make you into a different person. however, i think we always find a chance to redeem ourselves and that way is through really understanding God's word.

i believe that once we've established ourselves a little more, it's a matter of seeing what He's has intended us to do. not to mention, the Bible preaches loving your neighbors and helping others. i think by being selfless, one can fulfull that selfish happiness we strive for. burn out brighter is the most inspirational song i've ever listened to and i think you sum it all up there.

the center of ourselves lies in helping others through whatever way God intends us to.
kaulie janae said…
i find myself asking this kind of question a lot. how can i know what i am, what my self actually consists of?

if, in an extreme situation, i reacted in dark ways inconsistent with my ideals of right and wrong and my understanding of my self, does that mean that my understanding was wrong, that i am made of much darker material than i originally thought? do my actions, reactions, and choices define my self?
on a different note, yesterday a friend and i got in a long conversation on whether or not mankind was essentially selfish - not good or evil, not right or wrong, we weren't discussing those at all, just expanding on and trying to contradict the idea that man is almost exclusively self-serving.

this post echoed that to me.

thank you for an interesting read. thank you for something else to think about, to reconsider and re-evaluate.
one more piece to the puzzle.
Ponder This said…
I believe desperation and impatience breed creativity. Whether or not that creativity is used for good or bad all goes back to a person's thoughts and prayers. Many people will snatch up the first available option for food or shelter no matter what the cost, but those who have control over themselves and more importantly, their mindset, can know for sure the difference between a convenient choice vs. the choice they were meant to make.
Think positively and have faith that what you need will come to you.... in a safe, legal and moral way... That is something you have to train yourself to do. Have you seen/read The Secret?

"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark 11:24

"Whether you think you can or can't, either way you are right." Henry Ford

Think truly, and they thoughts shall the world's family feed." Horatio Bonar

So... basically, be thankful for what you have, and you will bring more of it about. Be positive in your thoughts and prayers, and what you visualize will materialize. However, thinking negatively and about negative things will only spur more negativity. What we perceive to be real has real consequences.

Do not worry that you may be 'bad' in your core self. Instead be confident that you are GOOD and you have the ability and the means to do good works. Don't question who you are and what your motives are in life... you are your worst enemy. Sometimes, you are all you've got and to be successful, you must be confident in yourself. Trust yourself.

I feel like I rambled a whole lot and I probably didn't make much sense... This topic is something that I struggle with as well. Reading "The Secret" though, has put my mind in a different perspective, and honestly... I see change. :)

Kaulie Janae--I agree that the issue is generally not good vs. evil, but it is selfishness that all humans have. People don't do community service just to be good citizens; they fill a job requirement, they boost their resume, they depend on it to make them feel good. Some parents choose to have kids because it may fill a void in their own lives or help out the current relationship. Selfish. Most things that I analyze that are seen as good works for others, end up going back to us as a way to boost us somehow.
Mark Duarte said…
I believe that most people are inherently evil. i think that history has shown that. i dont believe that anyone truly practices altruism. people always want some benefit whether it's material or immaterial (respect and recognition for good deeds)

just look at cain and able, even at the dawn of time people resort to murder and deceit.

i believe that most people hope for some benefit at some point or another.

but then how do i explain mother teresa?

i can't even convince myself one way or another. lol
Lis said…
I do think that human beings are inherently selfish. But I think that selfishness is inside of us as a survival instinct, not as an intentional character flaw. It's the ability to restrain the flow of selfishness inside of us that is one way that makes us 'good'.

Just think that if a person was entirely altruistic (in the extreme sense), they would not eat without making sure everyone else had eaten. In a survival situation, this person would ensure everyone else had enough to eat and not feed his/herself. This altruistic person would give away all of their warm clothing and blankets to make sure others were warm and end up freezing to death. There must be a certain amount of selfishness within a person to guarantee survival.

Ponder_this, I am not sure I agree completely. I do a lot of volunteering. I am not required to do so by my employer and most of my community service does not appear on my resume. I suppose I do gain the benefit of feeling good, but I would also feel good if I spent my time hanging out with my friends and laughing or getting a full body massage. Yet I feel compelled to use some of my time to improve the world somehow.

But back to the original idea posed by Stephen.....I believe that extreme circumstances uncover extreme behavior. There is no way to really know how one will act when under duress. We can only hope that should such an unusual circumstance arrive, we do our best to be 'good'.
Chris said…
Your posts are always thought provoking and now I wish I would have actually read "the road" before giving my copy away!

Adversity does bring out who we really are at the core of our being. I think that even though I might want to do for the other person, what really is my motive?
Am I authentic in my actions?

This made me think of our sermon this morning from Romans 12- Displaying a God-like love, regardless of our circumstances.

Here are some verses from Romans
12 (The Message)

"don't be so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. instead fix your attention on God"

"love from the center of who you are, don't fake it"

"don't quit in hard times, pray all the harder"

If the definition of altruism is a selfless concern for the welfare of others, how do I put the other person in the center of myself?
Impossible without divine intervention.
Aimee said…
Interesting thoughts here. I particularly like what lis said about having a certain amount of selfishness inside of us, but the ability to supress those instincts being our "goodness". I think that, sadly, a good number of people, when faced with extreme situations, would act in their own best interest first. But people with integrity, who have a personal understanding and acceptance that God will take care of them, would act in a more selfless manner. If people act selfishly, it would be out of the primal human instinct of fear; it's fear that causes us to do drastic things for survival, that forces us to make difficult decisions concerning the worth of others and the value of our own lives over theirs. But if you take away that fear, and replace it with a faith in God that is utterly complete, you will not fear a simple thing like death. It is this, combined with a love for all members of the human race, that will help us to push our selfishness aside, even in the most dire situations.

As for which side of the line you fall on...only you can answer that. But it's not fair to say that people are inherently good or evil; they're a motley of the two. The only thing separating us is the part we choose to show.

You are so humble, Stephen, and it's obvious you care deeply about people. And it's these things that I see in you that make me think that you are more than some selfish creature that lies dormant while it's comfortable. Don't lose faith in yourself. Harness your love, and drive it into all that you do, and in the end it will be that that suppresses the inner darkness.

I'll have to check out those books when I get the chance. Thanks for posting. :-)
Li said…
Hey, this is completely unrelated to your post I'm afraid, and also pretty random but; I met you backstage at last night's show in Oxford, and I just wanted to say that I'm terribly sorry for intruding on your privacy as I'm sure you didn't want to be confronted by a couple of excited fans! I feel really bad about it actually (plus I'm sure I'll be in trouble with my boss next time I'm at the academy) but I've got to say, thank you guys so much for humouring us. And thank you for the lovely photo. I hope we didn't scare you too much :)

More importantly, you guys put on an amazing show. I'm not exaggerating when I say half the audience were only there to see Anberlin. I hope you enjoyed yourselves, and the same to the other guys. Here's hoping you come back soon.

Li x
doubtisfaith said…
hmmm. I'm not sure about this one. but while I, too would like to think that I would prove to be a good person, even in terrible circumstances, I'm not so sure. Can we really be held responsible for our moral actions if our physical needs are not met? It's easy for me to dismiss the sins of others this way, but I don't think I'd be so easy on myself.

I have always felt this need to be challenged. Like in The Lord of the Flies. To face some real difficulty. I grew up right along with Harry Potter, and I was always jealous of the fact that he had such challenges to prove his character. It's like I feel like I am a marathon runner, but I've never had a marathon to go to and test it.

So what are we, at our core, our deepest self? Are we merely biological, animalistic, barbarians? Or is that part of us just more easily seen when deprived of physical needs? I'd like to think that it's just harder to be a good person when placed under this pressure. But I think it's possible. Maybe that's the measure of a man.
doubtisfaith said…
to ponder this,

I disagree with your statement that we should have faith in our own goodness. I think we should always constantly question our own motives and delve into our most selfish thoughts.

Some may say that's being too hard on yourself, but if you aren't, then who will be? The only person responsible for your actions is you, so you should constantly inspect your own self, evaluate, and make room for change.
Paper Tyger said…
Good vs. Evil...
Like you said and everyone else that commented before me said, that we are either born with evils, or born good...possibly born just neutral. I honestly do not know which one we are, but in my opinion i believe that its made up of multiple factors. The first one being nature vs. nuture. the second is situations we tend to be in. and third is the morals we hold dear to us. i believe that people are born. just born. as a clean slate so to speak, and lifes occurances shape us to be who we are.
SBV said…
This almost reminds me of the phrase 'what if?' A lot of times we can put our thoughts into situations that aren't current and may possibly not even happen - whether it be for good and bad - but is it really of any benefit? Maybe it depends how likely the 'what if?' situation is to come true. Yes, we'll all lose the people we love, and yes, we may hit harder times than we have at the moment, but I think the most important thing is to realise how good a person you are right now and be as determined as you can to stay that way. Sure, it's good for brain stimulation and even heart stimulation to think about such a scenario, but I think the most important thing is to be as good a person as you can while you can, for as long as you can. Everyone is going to react a little differently if in a life or death/survival situation, so if in such a scary circumstance you're not as 'good' as you are now... well... I'm sure you'd try and be as good as you can, depending on that circumstance. But ponder not what the real center of yourself is, but whether TODAY you are being the best person you truly can be. Think about whether there's something extra you can do RIGHT NOW to be a kinder and better person (you know, like eating less animals so they don't have to be tortured, ;-)). I'm sure you have way more integrity than most people, so I would not worry about whether you could maintain it in a severe circumstance in the future.

Thanks for adding a new blog entry. :-) Now I must go and start typing up that interview...
I've probably asked myself this same question a dozen or more times..
What is 'good', and do I fit into the mold?
Are we inherently evil, or inherently good?
As far as I've experienced there is only one thing I can conclude..
There is no mold for good or evil.. and no man can be the judge of either..
We contain both elements of rage, and elements of compassion. Love and Hate. Selflessness and Selfishness.
Yet the purpose behind our actions will forever be deemed 'good' or 'evil'.

I like to think my will is strong enough to survive an apocalyptic doom or being stranded on a deserted island.. but where is the line between feeling isolation from a deserted world, and isolation in a crowded room?

I'm convinced the only thing that keeps any of us going is love for other beings..

A love for your son at the end of the world..
A love for your friends when a plane crash leaves you stranded..
A love for your God and your family when you're 5000 miles away and isolation seems to envelope every emotion.

The last of these is autobiographical.. but its my only experience with ultimate detachment while studying abroad this summer in oxford..

The will to go on, to do good, to follow in the footsteps which God has set before us, is fueled by love.
For me, it is love for God and for my family.
For others, I cannot be sure..

Perhaps my answer seems romantic, but its the only one I could come up with..
raechel said…
I too contemplated these thoughts. I suppose Biblically speaking, we're all born with sin (since we are all children of procreation and sex). That being said, we also have Jesus and I think He's the difference in whatever digressions we may face.
Yesterday I sat in a service that spoke about Elijah and the famine his town suffered. People were so hungry that they ate their own children. That's unimaginable to me! Anyways, the guest speaker mentioned that this was all due to lack. Where we lack, we try to make up for in evil deeds. I love what you were mentioning in your post, and I also wonder what I would be like if I were completely lacking like the man and his son in that novel.
josiah said…
I definately believe that people are born inherently selfish. Like Mark said, look at history. There are countless, countless examples that show this. The only difference between us and Nazis is that the people around them said it was ok.

But as to the question on, and perhaps the longing for, dire situations, perhaps it isn't really that hard to asnwer. I think looking at our motivations in reactions to even the littlest things can tell us a lot about ourselves. If we do the right thing, even when it seems insignificant, in our relationships with those around us, even those we dislike or will get no reward from, then most likely we would react the same in a dire situation with survival on the line. If we are honest with ourselves, none of us are even close to doing this perfectly. We all mess up. In a dire situation though, I believe I'd be neither completely good nor completely evil. Sometimes I'd screw up, other times I'd help others. I'd just be striving, as I am in my non-dire life right now.
malinna said…
I've always tried to live by the golden rule... and it's not always been easy. I've found that not everyone lives like this, however, I do still believe that people try to do the right thing.

When challenged with some type of adversity, I've found that the fight or flight syndrome kicks in. As a mother of four, there have been times when you don't want to mess with the lady tiger... seriously, my cubs come first and when they have been threatened, it would seem that I could possibly become barbaric. I'm extremely protective and loyal to those I love, however I am constantly putting my children, husband and others before myself. And yes, it does make me feel more worthwhile and as if I have a real purpose on this planet.

Patricia M... I agree with you.
On the subject of survival of self, I belive we are products of our environment. Born with a blank slate and molded with morals and ethics of those closest to us. Parents, teachers, friends all have roles that we tend to use to create what we are about. Being adopted at 3 days old, yes, the blood that flows through my veins may be like that of my biological parents, but my very soul and being is that of my adoptive parents.

My life is like a pendulum, a yin/yang situation at times. I have been pulled one way and then the other, almost as if I could hear that little voice inside (gut instinct) telling me right from wrong. Our cores are created as we are growing. We want to do good so that we are rewarded by being loved.

The endurance of the human will is amazing. We here in the U.S. need to look beyond our "little bubble" we live in and realize how truly fortunate we are. You mentioned "what a city might look like in the future... and fires on the hill." Immediately, the recent devastating fires in and around L.A. came to mind. I'm sure some of those people living there are at this very moment, in survival mode. Look at the holocaust survivors, who have never forgotten the horrors of what they lived through. It's almost as if a amazing strength comes through us... (god?) and we see light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, I honestly believe each of us will be tested to our very core of being.
Julie said…
God created man with a soul that was made not to bring itself to perfection in its own order, but to be perfected by him in an order infinitely beyond the reach of human powers.
Life is brutal, full of horror and violence. Life is beautiful, full of passion and joy. Both things are true at the same time. The paradox extends to my own being. I think of the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who calls Christianity the religion of Love and Comedy: “The point is not that, due to the limitations of his mortal sinful nature, man cannot ever become fully divine, but that due to the divine spark in him, man cannot become fully man.”
julie said…
I meant to add:
<< that was quoted from Rob Bell. I wish those were my own thoughts, but I have to say they do coincide with my own beliefs on this subject fairly exactly.
jessica said…
Best opening line of a book ever. Great post.
malinna said…
great post, stephen!

speaking of great reads... while in london, check out this place!

Anonymous said…
In the bible it says for no one is good except God Mark 10:18 and I believe that, but also I believe we don't understand the word "good" per say. I think that there is a secular definition of good and God's definition of good. First off I would have to say I had trouble believing that man was evil, because I went to Tokyo on a mission trip and most of the population does not believe in God. Well these people were so kind and nice some would give up their seats so we Americans could sit or they would always apologize if they bumped in to us or something like that. So I started to wonder how can man not be good? So a friend and I were talking about this, and in my opinion people are good in that sense they will sacrifice or help people. I think God put in us all a sense of what is right and wrong ( I can't think of the word right now) anyway so in that sense I think humans are generally "good". On the other hand in Mark 10: 18 Jesus say why do you call me good no one is good except the father. I think he means as in sin because we are all sinners it in inevitable unless we have God so in that case only God is good enough to save us from our flesh and the lies of Satan. God can help us with this because with God all things are possible and his power Mark 10:27. Also God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts, so his thought of "good" is different from the secular definition. Anyway I have no idea what I wrote even makes sense to anyone or if I explained it well or if it had anything to do with the blog, but this is what was laid upon my heart to write so that's it.
taylor oehlke said…
its hard to say...in the lord of the flies, there just kids who becomes savages. but i wonder if adults can do this as well. i would like to think not but survial of the fittest comes to mind in a situation like that. knowing myself i dont believe that i could have survied on the island... but my question is... is it better to die doing the civilized thing or better to live doing the savage thing?
Eve said…
While sneaking around my MUCH older sister's room, an alluring book cover was starring back at me. I snatched it up and headed to my room to read it under the covers with a flash light and "tent knees". I am not sure a nearly nine year old should read Lord of the Flies, but I "got it" just the same. This was the beginning of my deepest, darkest fear. What IS at the very core of me? All these years later and I still don't know absolutely...that good reins in me.

I DO believe we are born absolutely evil. Like little cold, hard seeds, buried in darkness. As we are given light and nourishment, we begin to grow. Not everyone grows at the same rate. Siblings under the same parents can turn out So very differently. Perhaps our outer coverings are different. Some are really hard and need more to get moving toward the light. Others are just bursting out of the pod and strive toward the light with just the bare minimum of care. You have to want the light of the surface to find it. Others seem to just be content to stay in the dark. They are comfortable wallowing there.

I believe we all know that there is a God to reach towards, it is inner born. What we do with it is another question. The choice being ignore it or make it a passion to run towards Him? Perhaps it is just easier to stay unenlightened.....selfish and lost.

I have seen many wonderful places and enjoyed doing fantastic things, I like my life: BUT
For me to survive really bleak, life threatening conditions, I believe It would have to be for the sake of another. Maybe carrying another soul back to those who love and need them. Or if there was someone at the other end whose survival depended on me getting out alive. But for the sake of myself, by myself, I doubt I would make it. I don't love this life that much. I believe in an afterlife, and I am not afraid to go to it. Maybe I would surprise myself, but I would not mind going home to the Father. Perhaps that is ultimate selfishness on my part?
Rover Fox said…
Unfortunately we don't live in a society where are character is tested on a regular basis.

This reminds me of a story my friend told me, whether its true or not I'm not sure. Apparently during the cold war Christian worship was prohibited in the Soviet Union. Because of that many underground churches arose. The KGB upon infiltrating one of these underground churches gave everyone the choice to renounce their faith and leave alive, or stay and be killed. Very quickly many of people from the congregation left. When everybody had made their decision the KGB closed the doors, and wanted to talk with the remaining people. Apparently they wanted to find out who the real Christians were.

I'm convinced if I were tested I would do the right thing, but its hard to imagine what kind of pain that would invovle, dieing and everything.
Anonymous said…
I'll take the Orwellian/Machiavellian post--humanity is essentially evil. Greed and pleasure drive humankind's actions. Those on top will try to stay on top. Those in the middle will fight and manipulate the masses to get to the top. The masses will fight for equality.
Each citizen is inherently selfish and ruthless.
In times of privation and tribulation, people will ensure that they and their households survive. Poverty often results in crime. I believe the human will persist, but it will not always follow the "good" path.
[Cr*] said…
i remember that book, poor fatty boy :(

i think we are not good or bad, we're both of them at the same time, we're made of contradictions. the 'good' and 'bad' adjetives were made by humen in their way to find the truth, the reality.
Sarah (: said…
the lord of the flies is one of my favorite books too! i read it last year which was my sophomore year. i guess we can find ourselves by putting ourself in a difficult situation where we are not used to.

i hope we all dont turn into animals and kill each other when something tragic happens on earth..
guard my dreams said…
i read 'the road' a few months ago and thought that it was quite possibly the most depressing, yet also the most beautiful, book i have ever read. it was amazing how the author showed the love the man had for his son and what he would give up for his son. they also never lost hope. i highly recommend this book. but i also found myself asking the same questions that you did. in our society, the basic survival instincts arent tested. i guess this can be viewed as both a good and a bad thing, as this does mean that most of us are lucky enough to not be in such a bad position that we need them. however, this also means that one wrong turn while hiking in the woods would be the end of it. so i dont know. good and bad thing, in a way. would i be able to survive on my own? not at all. now the deeper question is could i remain hopeful through all circumstances? possibly. id like to say that i hopw im never in a situation where i find that out, but it would actually be a great learning experience. i guess im saying, yes. i hope i get lost in the woods so that i find out what im really made of.
Anonymous said…
This maybe a bit off tangent but lately I've been thinking about a fairly similar subject. Not necessarily about human nature being inherently good or evil. But would your character survive this... What if you as a person lost everything, stripped of everything and naked. Exposed for all to see. All possessions...your house, car, clothes, job, title, etc. What would you have left and could you survive off of that? Would you still have your friends and family? Would they stick by your side? Would you still have your dignity? Integrity? Honor? Loyalty? Honesty? Face, etc.? And lastly, would you have God to help you through it?
Could you get through it all and survive with what you have as a person...your character?
Janelle said…
"The Road" sounds like a good book, & one I'd be interested in. I'll have to check it out. I still haven't read "Lord of the Flies" yet, but I really want to. So many books, so little time!

I, too, hope that I would put others before myself, but you never know how you actually will react in such a situation. Which is a bit scary to consider, in a way - that you're one way when everything's fine, but can become a completely different person faced with an issue of survival.
Mark Duarte said…
Anonymous raechel said...

I too contemplated these thoughts. I suppose Biblically speaking, we're all born with sin (since we are all children of procreation and sex). That being said, we also have Jesus and I think He's the difference in whatever digressions we may face.
Yesterday I sat in a service that spoke about Elijah and the famine his town suffered. People were so hungry that they ate their own children. That's unimaginable to me! Anyways, the guest speaker mentioned that this was all due to lack. Where we lack, we try to make up for in evil deeds. I love what you were mentioning in your post, and I also wonder what I would be like if I were completely lacking like the man and his son in that novel.

Sorry raechel,
but i have to completely disagree with your comment of being born with sin, due to procreation and sex. God, created sex and the bible teaches that everything God created was good. Secondly, if people were born with sin, biblically speaking as you stated, than infants that died would go to hell. As they are not able to repent of their sin and ask forgiveness.
-JEss- said…
i think i read this post just at the right time. i've just listened to Anberlin's AP Podcast just when you were talking about faceless organization and so it sorta linked to this post.

i think that people are just born neutral and the things they do in life affects if they're good or bad. so there is a decision and it fully up to you. there is no definitive classification to good or bad. there is always a good in everything and so its hard to really say. it always comes down to what you choose that makes who you are.
ekozania said…
Everyday when I wake up I’m always not so sure about the human race. I never know who I will encounter that day, what I might come across, or what actions I will take. I can vividly recall many days, okay actually more like hundreds of days, where I woke up and thought the world was a terrible place, full of heartless souls all out to destroy me. And out of those days, a handful of them I was proven wrong. Maybe all it took was that one genuine smile from a stranger that I needed, to know that people cared, or the one gesture of letting me go in front of them at the grocery store to buy one item compared to their cartful. I think it is the little things, the details that often go overlooked that actually remind us everyday that people are innately good, just sometimes get distracted by barriers of life. I believe that there are so many hints of these details thrown at us every day, it’s just whether we choose to see them and let them inside or ignore them completely.

That being said, I think that everyday we see the core of ourselves. I am in the same boat – I’ve grown up blessed with more things than I could ever ask for, and have never had to face an extreme urgency of danger. BUT I think that we don’t need that to drive us to that emotional state. At the end of every day, we are our own worst enemies and we will ultimately be the ones to drive ourselves to success or total destruction. The urgency and desperation that comes with being homeless and just trying to get by the forces of nature is something I cannot speak for. From what I have gathered and observed is that it lies at the core of ourselves, desperately searching within to find the internal resources that will get us by the moment and hopefully into the next day which promises to be better. In the same sense, any loss, bout of desperation, moment of pain, or tragic event that occurs in our life, no matter how small or how big, forces us to face the same question: do we have the internal resources to carry on? And most of the time we automatically think NO, because at the end of the day it is so much easier to give up then to keep on walking. But days, weeks, and months later when we are still walking and still struggling,….we realize that somehow, somewhere we subconsciously have made it 100 miles further, 4,000 breaths later, and 10,000 heartbeats and still pumping.

I know that these resources may be undeveloped in some, and in others more fully developed due to practice. You may be thinking, what about the people who commit suicide, who ultimately didn’t have the resources to keep going, but this is not true. Deep within, somewhere we don’t know exists lays the instincts to avoid death. In times of hopelessness I believe that the resources are there, just we psych ourselves out to think that they don’t exist. It is ultimately a choice rather than a lack of strength.

Next time you ever think you can’t make it through the night, through the storm, or through the starvation, know that it can be done. I have doubted the human strength every single day, yet every time I prove myself wrong subconsciously. I am still at the beginning of my world war, but I know that if I believe that I will survive in those rare moments of clarity, somehow subconsciously my body will follow.
Ray Yaegle said…
Much as it pains me to quote Firefly's pop-wisdom (though not as much as the endless array of Star Trek quotes): "Live with a man forty years. Share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then tie him up and hold him over the volcano's edge, and on that day you will finally meet the man."
dana said…
i always think i have the strength.
Joe Willy said…
Hey everyone,
I know alot of people have seen this on the news but I just ran into it. Pretty awesome...

"Don't Shoot the Messenger!" said…
Great post, I wonder things like that all the time, do i have the physical qualities of survival? Do the people i love? and if the world was at its worst and I was left to survive in a planet covered in clouds of ash, what would i do? Also, if I was stranded in a dangerous environment if I would have the drive to keep going, or if i would curl up and starve. I'm not sure if i should be grateful for the luxury of not understanding this, or disappointed that I lack survival experience, or rather the knowledge to survive. I suppose that it is only my ignorance that glamorizes pain, and dire situations.
kstew said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
kstew said…
I think and i feel (unfortunately) that most of the time paradise is always to the back of us, it is what we once was or where. I had struggled with this over the summer. I was working at a camp near Santa Cruz California and it was the easiest thing i have ever done. However, as the summer went along it got mundane. I was a life guard at the camp, and it was around the fourth or fifth summer that i worked at a camp and as a life guard, so i felt no challenge, what so ever. The people i worked with were amazing, i felt totally blessed by God, and there was almost no problem, but that was the problem. How can i be truly happy if i have everything i want. I mean, it was great at first because i have always wanted to work there since i went there when i was in high school. There was no problems, so there was no growth as a person or spiritually. I cant see how we can grow or grow as much when there is no problems. Not to say that i cause problems intentionally. As i came home and as i got back in school i almost felt that my summer was a waste because i felt the same, i felt that the summer was stagnate. I didn't feel of any use or was important. So do you think paradise is when we are of use and that we feel that we are of use, and the tough times and pulling throw those challenges make us happy, more mature? Like we count or have an impact. I mean i love being content in life, a contentness (is that a word?) that comes from God and i have felt that, but can contentness come out of selfish motives, idk. I think it just a product of wanting to do something that challenges us. I guess the real challenge is for us to find out paradise.
lauracp said…
a book you would like: the alchemist, by paulo coelho (though i imagine you have already read it).
escaped silence said…
I would also imagine that "surviving survival" would take an extreme amount of courage to not fall back on the easy way out: being self-seeking. Not just whether you are good or bad.

This post also reminds me of history class, Hobbes and Locke, where Hobbes believed everyone was born inherently evil, and Locke believed the opposite. Maybe you've read their books...

I also wanted to say that you inspire me alot with your posts. I want to help/volunteer after reading your blog. I think I'm going to spend summer volunteering.
emkay said…
I love Lord of the Flies. What an incredible book...

I saw you tonight at Mosaic. Of all the churches I have been to in LA, none of them speak to me like that one. I have a friend that knows you (does that sound creepy? he's in a band too and I'll leave him anonymous because of that) and he said he thought you'd moved out here recently.

So now that I sound like I stalker, I just wanted to say, welcome.
ted said…
so i just finished the road (an amazing read, thank you!) and i have to say four things would determine our character's survival: faith, hope, love, and trust. if we have faith in something higher than ourselves then we know why we're still alive. if we have hope, it keeps us going and away from thoughts too suicidal. if we have love, it keeps us living for something, someone. if we have trust, as the boy had, we can make some wrongs right, start something new.

i still believe we are generally good-natured but without faith, hope, love, and trust, i don't think we could survive. the cannibals didn't have those things, they just had that barbaric instinct you were speaking of. and as you said, it is of course difficult to understand what we'd really do. as i was reading about the cellar with all the food and feeling so elated for them, i took a step out of the book and realized i was living that tenfold and not at all happy as they were.

so i think building relationships is key to survival. without God and other people, you're left to your own selfish self where all you think about is, "i don't care if this is moral or not, i need to live." in the end it's God who really decides and if we're there for him, he'll be there for us.
Spydurgirl said…
Humanitarian-traveler-musician change the world.

Thanks for the chat today.
Jen Pider
Gracie said…
I just had to teach a section of the book as a project for my english class.
The structure of the book did not appeal to me, but in all opinion I think the meaning behind it is good.
I actually thought that in the book, it sort of emphasizes that people are born good. Especially with the boy. He was not exposed to the pre-war society and only knows a dead world. and despite the cannibals and slavery that he sees, he is unchanged and wants to help everyone he meets on the road.

But wow this is crazy, that we read the book simultaneously, and I am glad that you mentioned something about the book. I really would not have thought deeper into it.
OleMiss86 said…
I'm new to this blog but I've been so impressed/moved by whats going on (watched and loved the 'last lecture'), so i hope its decent computer etiquette to jump right in...

I figure that given survival situations like that, a person must make the choice whether to betray themselves and their beliefs(which i'd assume that would only be revealing one's true character), OR a person would stick with what they believe and suffer the consequences.

i, personally, would be afraid to venture there, I feel my flesh would overtake me, and my worst sin be exposed (worst of worst). I would honestly hope then that i am removed by life or by death from the situation to save me from myself... and hey, i think that'd actually would happen. it did happen. help from above. Divine intervention... if that isnt too cliche
147decibels said…
hey stephen- good post
it makes me think of what my psychology professor once told me about how abnormal situations create abnormal reactions.

i can testify to that just the same. for some people, it doesn't take the whole world to be destroyed, just their own lives. at my job as a firefighter, i've seen crazy things happen to people, and have seen those people either completely crumble or rise to the challenge.

and in my opinion, the difference is made when people who call for help know their limitations. emergencies, by nature, are situations where a person's ability to handle a situation has been surpassed by the demands of the situation.

so that is said to make the point that when you know what you are not, you know what you are.
and ultimately, it is the situations like these, where everything is opened up, and the urgency, chaos, and confusion exist that an opportunity exists to define the parameters of what we know, and what we do not know. this sometimes leads to a greater sense of purpose temporarily, at least.

the interesting thing is, you tend to find that you have more questions than answers.
and so my answer ends with a question-where do you go from there? what is the absolute?
Lau said…
I always wonder this about myself.
Good topic, I'm going to have to think it over.
Anonymous said…
i think we all think about that at some point in life. if we're good, or if we only want what's best for ourselves no matter the consequences. and i'm in a stage in my life where i'm really proud of who i am. i'm trying to better myself., and i believe that i am becoming a better person.
although we can never know what our reactions will be like until we actually live through the situation. we always assume we'll react a certain way (the better way), and hope for it. but we never really know.
Renny said…
Stephen, I think people are basically good. But we do have the natural man instinct which is, in essence, looking out for "number one." But I think its impossible, being creatures created by a Perfect Being, to believe that we are naturally evil. We choose which instinct to listen to. Remember, even in Lord of the Flies, not all of the boys turned to violence.
Anonymous said…
Ponder This, your post was very interesting! It did indeed make sense. I will remember this - "I believe desperation and impatience breed creativity. Whether or not that creativity is used for good or bad all goes back to a person's thoughts and prayers."

alot of people keep coming back to this one point... if being selfless makes you happy then is it really selfish? then is it even possible to be selfless? People think I'm a good person, but the truth is, I do whatever I want, whatever makes me happy. What makes me happy is being a servant. so - there is no choice made. But isn't the choice supposed to be important part? Aren't good choices what make good people? Therefore I don't FEEL like a good person alot of the time. Same point for being a virgin or not trying drugs. I hate taking credit for that stuff because I've never actually been in a situation where I could have had sex or tried drugs... no temptation. So I guess I'm afraid if I had a choice in all this stuff I would make the wrong one. (well except for the drugs.. I'm scared of those..)

I guess that was kind of on topic, anyways I've needed to that off my chest a while.

personally I think I'd be quite a savage if I had to survive on my own. But now I'm inspired to make more good choices and that IS the point of this blog. so thank you kind people of the modesty guild.
Anonymous said…
To be completely honest, I did not find this book as amazing as most critics. I do understand the basic meanings behind the book, and the "Is there more to living than being alive" concept... Yet I was left lacking at a quick savior ending.
While I enjoyed the book, I do not feel that it should have won the awards that it did.
Nylan said…
Alone, we are lower than the dust of the earth.

With God, our character is indomitable.
Lulu said…
I always have to comment before I have time to read other people's comments; ya'll are such delightfully good thinkers. Anyway, that is an excellent subject, one that people do not like to face. Lord of the Flies is a great book. I just read it for a class, and it so truthfully contradicted all I hear about humanity being good, that in spite of being slightly depressing, it forced me to run even faster to Jesus. Though still not nearly fast enough.
Tsianna said…
I haven't read 'the road' but oddly enough a friend of mine just mentioned it the other night. I have too many things stacking up to read right now.

I'd like to think that having to survive an apocalypse, end of times, the breakdown of all social systems, and absence of other people would not faze me, that I would be all right, but I think the loss of the support system I depend on would be hard.

I watched a show on the history channel once called 'life after people'. It was a very eloquent representation of how resilient this world we live on is. The planet would survive quite fine without us and our footprints... but we have yet to find a way to survive without it.

There is a lot to be said about human strength, and I don't mean physically. Some of us use situations to bend and grow, some of us are broken instead. I'm still at a loss to understand why. I guess it ties back to your foundation, if it is not solid, then you have nothing to carry you through when adversity calls. I don't particularly want to test the theory but I do trust it, I have survived a number of things and still look forward to another day. =)
kim said…
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

In my opinion, we are not whole until we have experienced God's perfect, unconditional love. A fraction of this can be shown through others. However, we, being animals who inhabit time, cannot fully be in and experience the presence of God until we transition into eternity as spirits. Then, there will be no fear and uncertainty.

Although you do not know if you are "good" know this: listeners of Anberlin and readers of Stephen Christian's writing are blessed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Remember "If we are faithless, He remains faithful." (2 Timothy 2:13)

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