The Oversimplification of Good and Bad

A few days ago, I found out one of my friends passed away. To be honest, she was more an acquaintance, as I’d only met her in person a handful of times. She wasn’t old, she wasn’t sick (as far as I knew), and she’d been active online as of two weeks ago. I don’t know if it was COVID or cancer or a car accident. Not that it matters. Dead is dead.

Right after hearing this piece of news, I found out that my friend’s wife was having her baby (their first child) later that afternoon. An evening post included a picture of the healthy baby boy. So, on one hand we have this bit of sad news, on the other, happy news. Life giveth and death taketh away.

But does this make death bad and life good? One could argue that neither are good or bad in themselves. Death prevents awful people from doing more harm, just as it prevents wonderful people from doing more good. Life for some is so terrible that not being born would be the better option, while for others not living would be worse.

When it comes to people being good or bad, we judge them limited by the short span of time we are alive to witness the effect of their actions, slightly longer if they’ve preceded us to the grave. To decide if someone was truly good or bad, we’d have to follow every thread of influence that their life has had on others and the sum total of that effect. And good people may do awful things, just as awful people may do good things.

The main problem with categorizing things as good or bad, however, is that it simplifies life in all its complexities, and simplifies us in all our multitudes. My friend was a lovely person, and yet to say she was a good person is to ignore the parts of her character that are neither good nor bad but just are, parts that her friends have been sharing on Facebook and which give a clearer idea of what was put in the universe with her life that is no longer there in her death. As for the baby, the years ahead will decide what kind of space he fills in the world, but there’s currently a very large vacancy.