Songwriting

The Swamp of Goodness

There’s no such thing as a good swamp to build on. Monty Python and the Holy Grail offers this example in which a king, (not Arthur), speaks with his son:  

Listen, lad. . . When I started here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp, but the fourth one… stayed up! And that’s what you’re gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands.

I worry that castle isn’t as strong as advertised.

Building an identify on “being good,” is the same a building a castle on a swamp. If I’m identified with being good, what’s left when my “goodness” is called into question? Either “badness,” or the gaping maw of annihilation. Both are pretty swampy swamps. They are literal threats to my personhood. 

What if instead I believe I’m a worthy person apart from actions? This sounds like a swamp too. (It’s actually sturdy ground). Think on it. If I’m inherently worthy, I can reckon with my confusion, ignorance and mistakes from the solid ground of my self worth. If I’m inherently worthy and discover I’m confused, ignorant or mistaken, I can admit it while resting on that solid ground. I can admit to mistakes of all kinds. I’m also less likely to strike out in the kind of confusion, anger, and blindness when my “good” identity is threatened.

Inherent worth doesn’t preclude human fallibility. I’ll still make all kinds of mistakes. Nor does it negate ethics, morals or my understanding of good and bad. They will be separate, and essential. But when I act and respond out of inherent worth, I don’t have to fear the Swamp of Goodness. Knowing I’m inherently worthy, I can leave the swamp behind. 

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