Feb 19, 2024

Can Virtue Hurt You? And Did that Almost Rhyme?

Rewarding selfless acts is its own reward. Or something like that

By Ed Goldman

In an increasingly thankless world, don’t you think it’d be nice if there were an A-I program to automatically send out commemorative notes recognizing our little acts of virtue?

What about the following tidbits of everyday goodness we perform for only self-satisfaction (while we secretly yearn that others are observing and appreciating them and are now considering us for very large citizenship grants)? 

Edgy Cartoon

Silence is Goldman


– Our paying more than the minimum due on a credit card bill because we think the company could use some extra money, what with its being investigated by the SEC, NYSE, FBI and U.S. House Select Committee on Customer Gouging; 

– Our not speeding through a yellow light because we correctly figured we had plenty of time to slow down and stop by the time it turned red—even though the guy in the next lane (and four cars back) disagreed with our decision and almost got all of us killed as he soared through the rush-hour intersection at 85 mph);

– Our not laughing like a loon when we got to the next traffic signal and pulled alongside the same guy;

– Not tearing the tags off new mattresses—not from fear of incarceration if we did so but because we inherently felt it was the right thing to (not) do. Because we’re glass half-full types, we’re thinking this kind of effort could solve problems in the Mideast or at least male-pattern baldness and adult-onset acne;

– Replacing the batteries in our smoke detectors at the start of every season even though we’d already angrily removed three of the devices from our walls—and, when they wouldn’t stop beeping, pummeled them to death with a wooden veal hammer. (Since we were in the kitchen prepping dinner at the time, this was the nearest weapon to reach for.) This should merit, at the bare minimum, a certificate of appreciation, though likely not from the Fire Department;

– Not revealing to someone watching “Citizen Kane” for the first time the meaning of “Rosebud,” the word on Kane’s dying lips at the start of the film;

– Not shouting out “It’s Kevin Spacey!” when someone muses aloud who the killer in “The Usual Suspects” turns out to be—or whenever a new gay-oriented #MeToo accusation emerges in the news media;

– Not painting the word “Rosebud” on your Radio Flyer sled, thereby causing spoiler alert after spoiler alert for those around you every time you zip downhill during a winter film festival;

– Not showing up at a law enforcement fundraiser and instead of handing over your tickets at the door, waggishly substituting torn-off mattress tags;

– Resisting the temptation to say, “For this?!” when people tell you how much they paid for their home, car or purebred puppy (these days, the breed will likely have “poo” as a suffix);

– No longer telling people you were offered a top executive job but turned it down “for moral reasons” when in fact you never had a prayer of making it to even an initial interview;

– Politely passing on a proffered Beluga caviar canape at a reception by saying you’re vegan, and then, contrary to your nature, not stopping at an Arby’s drive-through on your way home and ordering the half-pound roast-beef sandwich with large fries, a milkshake and pint of horsey sauce;

– Refusing to join a consumer civil suit settlement against the manufacturers of a particular auto, pillow or personal truss because you never purchased that car, headrest or über jock strap—whereas in the past, you might have done so because you’d been thinking of buying one of the items. This demonstrates a remarkable moral breakthrough for you. You may wish to consider walking on water, playing the lottery or popping over to Arby’s. 

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).