Judge: “The bad place is owed two people. In my opinion, which is an objective fact in this case and all cases always and forever, you have all done bad things since you arrived here. Therefore, I don’t care which two of you go. You can decide. You have 30 minutes.”
The judge walks away, leaving the room to the four souls – Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason.
Eleanor: “Okay, I guess I’ll speak first. Jason and I are the mistakes. We’re the ones who misled everybody and dragged you all into this mess, so, we should go to the bad place.”
Tahani and Chidi: “Agreed / Yes”
Eleanor: “Okay, I thought you were going to at least pretend to fight me on that, but whatever.”
Jason: “Hang on. That judge just said everyone has done bad things. Let’s look at this ethnically.”
Jason: “You guys helped me and Eleanor, right, but we’re bad, so you helping us was bad. It’s basic consequentialism, the morality of an action is solely judged on its consequences.”
The Good Place is a television series that was truly interesting as it begins with a character named Eleanor Shellstrop, a small-time criminal. It’s an American fantasy comedy about four people in the afterlife, and how they navigate their way through all of it.
As Eleanor was not a good person, she ended up learning a lot about herself in the afterlife throughout the course of her journey. She falls in love with Chidi, another soul placed in her afterlife who is a moral philosopher.
As the plot unfolds, Eleanor and her three friends, including Chidi, have to decide who will go to the bad place. It has to be two among the four of them. In their discussion, Eleanor decides to go to the bad place. The bad place was just another term for suffering eternal damnation in hell, whereas the good place was considered heaven or paradise where all the good people went.
In the concluding scene of the first season, Eleanor, with her true love for Chidi, decides that she should go to the bad place. Her decision, unlike her nature, was completely selfless. When she was alive, Eleanor was greedy, self-centered, opportunistic, indifferent, inconsiderate, and had many other unfavorable qualities. How did she suddenly make a selfless decision of being the one to go to the bad place rather than let her friends suffer eternally?
As Eleanor journeyed through the supposedly good place for the first part of the season, she was made to confront her individuality as a person. She was made to experience the consequences of her actions on others, recreating moments of when she was alive.
These instances ranged from seeing her criminally bad side to how she hurt people’s feelings and the impact it left on them, that her death finally did not make a difference to anyone. She also faced the reasons why she became selfish and self-centered as a person.
While she experienced what other people suffered through because of her, she slowly realized that she was in fact a bad person. In all of this, she always wondered how and why Chidi loved her despite all her human flaws.
This is much like how one can explain the concept of love.
“True love does not come
by finding the perfect person,
true love comes
by learning to see
an imperfect person, perfectly.”
As one works toward enhancing their spiritual quotient, the concept of love gains more clarity. It’s like maturing with innocence rather than living innocently with ignorance. The person with a high Spiritual Quotient (SiQ) now understands the concept of love in its entirety.
In this world, there are two types of people when it comes to love. The first type is the one who loves because of a reason. A reason that is attributed to defining the relationship within terms and conditions. The relationship, be it between parents and children, spouses, friends, etc. is based on a verbal contract of obligations. For instance, a person may love their parent because they are parents. What about situations where a parent made a mistake? Is the mistake pardoned because of being a parent? Or does the love for the parent still exist despite the mistake? This brings me to the second type where a person loves someone despite their perceived imperfections. And the second type of love is what one should pursue to acquire.
So, this is where Eleanor too sees the implementation of love from a selfless point of view. She realizes that in order to save Chidi and the other two friends in her group, she has to literally sacrifice her soul and go to the bad place.
Eleanor: “Well, it’s been real, dawg…. Sorry, that’s how I ended most of my serious relationships.”
Chidi: “Yeah, that checks out. I feel like I failed you.”
Eleanor: “No, don’t ever think that. I was dropped into a cave, and you were my flashlight.”
Therefore, when you love someone despite being what someone is, it is true love, and not because you have a relationship of obligation with them. When you add reasons to loving someone, your “despite” changes to “because…”. And when this happens, love is not love anymore, it is an agreement or a contract with terms and conditions. A contract has a limited time, whereas true love is unconditional.
Unconditional Love lives on when the ‘concept of despite’ exists without ever the need to use ‘because’. When ‘Because’ starts to play a role, like:
· “I am only in this marriage because he or she needs me.”
· “I am still friends with them because everyone says they’re cool people to hang out with.”
· “I still keep in touch because they are my parents.”
This is when love stops being unconditional and reroutes toward being filled with tolerating one another. Therefore, to build unconditional love, one needs to turn from the ‘because of’ reasons and recognize the notion of “despite” in that relationship.
Remember that unconditional love does not apply to situations where different toxic relationships exist like Stockholm syndrome or narcissism. This is also a “because” relationship for such people.
In conclusion, I would like to share a poem that talks about love and how it transcends the superficial.
When You Are Old
By William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.