Have you ever been “bad”?

Have you ever done something you wouldn’t want people to know about?

You might have been 10 years old when you threw eggs at the henhouse 70 years ago. In your later years, were you one of the big bad wolves who never missed a dance at the Buxton Grange? Is there any chance that somebody who was there at the time might still remember what you did or said? Are they  just waiting for you to run for mayor of Portland so they can come forward and embellish whatever reputation you’re presently saddled with?

Is there anything newspaper publishers cherish more than color pictures of celebrities in a long-forgotten wet T-shirt contest?

This warrants our discussion because of the inordinate number of famous people who have recently been accused of doing bad things long ago. Although the passage of time might forgive mischief, it does not erase crime, even if the statute of limitations has long expired.

The finger-pointing pressure on celebrities is so intense that famous people who have not been accused of anything have recently admitted to our sensational press corps that 50 years ago they also did bad things – obviously trying to get the jump on a potential accuser by ‘fessin up to something that everyone else in the world probably forgot about long ago.

That’s why you might want to keep your most egregious crimes to yourself and take your chances.

Children quickly learn that many things that taste good are bad for you and have unpleasant consequences. Pianist Mose Allison sings, “I feel so good, it must be wrong.” And then, “I feel so bad it must be right.”

It is unfortunate that the words “good” and “bad” cannot be perceived by the senses like color, texture or odor, because the nature of “good” and “bad” has resulted in thousands of pages of philosophic speculation by those who would define them.

Do you see good and bad with the same eyes as your neighbors? Some of your friends might applaud their leader for starting a “good” war that impoverishes his nation and kills countless people – and then boo and hiss his replacement (who inherits the mess) for having “bad” children who dress like children.

As a student, pianist Steve Bither realized that the only way you could please everybody was to be “bad” and “good” at the same time. He named his musical group “The Wicked Good Band.” The fact that this oxymoron catapulted Mr. Bither to iconic fame is evident every time you hear someone say, “Eyah, that was wicked good.”

In any discussion where one asks, “What is good?” does not Socrates leap to mind? Socrates is even more remarkable when you consider that he made his mark on Western philosophy without the power of the Internet.

You will remember that Socrates had opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly, and as a result was silenced (much before his time) for asking questions that nobody wanted to hear. A summary of what Socrates said in “The Apology” amounts to no more than “straighten up and fly right.”

Everyone knows that Socrates defined knowledge as good and ignorance as bad. A parent might argue that some children are born to break things or take them apart. Children who throw eggs are not really bad, but are programmed ignorant. Only by coming to knowledge through reason can one obtain what is in one’s self-interest.

Children do not become adults until their “destructive” sprit is overcome by illuminating wisdom and regret. Perhaps they were not breaking things, but taking them apart to see how they worked.

By wrapping myself in the mantle of a philosopher I might have overstepped my bounds, for there are those who will quickly point out that reasoning is nothing but rationalization. If it makes us the money to get us elected, it must be good.

In the village of Port Clyde, there lived a well-liked man who was always in trouble. One snowy day he heard that the sheriff was looking for him, so he rushed home. When he got there, he turned around and walked into the house backward.

The sheriff, who had no idea what the man looked like, knocked at the door and asked if So-and-so was there. The man in question pointed at the footprints going away from the house and said, “No, he just left.”

This is an example of a bad thing to do that makes a wicked good story.

When you stop to think about your misspent youth, it is very unlikely that anyone will remember any given incident the same way you do. Every cherished memory is prone to distortion and exaggeration.

Holman Day’s Grampy boasted of a hired hand’s strength with:

“Once I see him lug a rock with fairly moderate ease,

“So hefty that at every step he sunk above his knees.”

Individuals inevitably have their own perception of everything they see or hear. If you are lucky, the influential people on the jury will ignore the image of your car endangering the public safety during the police-chase video and vote to acquit you because they like your tie.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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