The Book of Good Living: Moving Forward

[If you get nothing else out of this post, know this: I am (WE are!) asking for input. Seriously, I think this thing might work. Also: If you can't help in any other way, but like the idea, you can Facebook, tweet, Google-Plus, or otherwise snork (social network) the hell out of this post.]

I know you all, avid readers that you are, saw my recent post on The Book of Good Living.

It’s kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think? A book of lessons and rules designed not to control you or lessen your freedom, but to help you grow and become complete. And to help in building a society of justice, equality, and opportunity.

It would be the handbook, the basic operating manual, that should come with every human life.

And I’m sure you read the comments. A number of readers were very excited by the idea.

judykomorita said:

Start collecting, Hank. You’ll find people here who will help. Ask your fellow FTBers to put out the word, too.

kennypo65 chimed in with:

This is one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever read. I would definitely read that.

c2t2 added:

Oooh. A combination of the “Chicken Soup” and “for Dummies” series. With rule #1 being “Don’t believe everything you read… even here.” I would buy the shit out of that book.

Chakolate went further with:

Set up a site, and have a GoodLifeWiki, where people are invited to share things they’ve learned (usually the hard way) and share the story of how they came to the conclusion they did.

It would be a site you’d visit often, reading over the latest contributions. Commenters could offer suggestions or congratulations or condolences, as appropriate. It would be a community.

Others instantly started suggesting sources for the content, or adding their own little wisdoms:

Always be honest, especially with yourself.
Give blood.

Seeing that such an effort should also be FUN, others contributed:

Never sleep with someone crazier than you are.

And my favorite, from Grendels Dad, the funny but immensely practical:

Never fry bacon while naked.

Randomfactor suggested:

One of my minor rules is: When you come in from the parking lot, bring a shopping basket with you, even if you don’t need one. Pick one that’s been left blocking a parking space or in an unsafe location.

And anthonyallen added:

Don’t shit where you eat.

This covers things like dating people you work closely with, people in the same class as you, your boss, teachers, etc. It also covers betrayal of close friends, relatives, partners.

It also means that you shouldn’t treat the servers like crap at your favourite pub. Learned that one the hard way.

But best of all, nigelTheBold, Abbot of the Hoppist Monks actually took action: is up. It’s nothing fancy at the moment, just a barebones MediaWiki install. I tried WordPress, but the Wiki extensions were insufficient.

Here’s how I see this working: the .org will be an editor’s hangout, for folks who want to help decide the direction of BOGL. The .com [to come later] will be the actual book itself, once the editors have outlined exactly what BOGL is, and how it wants to operate.

I’ll create some pages to start the process, with some of my ideas. However, this is not my project. I’m just a geek who impetuously decided to set up a couple of websites. I will try to be a responsible support dude, but that’s about as much as I can promise.

That said, I look forward on a book of enlightenment.

Days after the original enthusiasm (for which I sincerely apologize) I finally found the time to take a shot at an initial explanation / mission statement. Let me know what you think:


What if there was a Book of Good Living?

Picture it as a collection of wisdom from people all over the world.

It would be all the stuff you should probably do, and the stuff you probably shouldn’t do, and the way you do it all, in order to live a good life. The way you treat people. The things you do in the course of a day. The broad-based forethought that goes into each life, all the lessons your parents, or their parents, or the people a thousand generations back, learned from the mistakes and hard knocks in their own lives.

Always look both ways before you cross the street. When two workmen meet in a narrow doorway, the one with the heavier load has the right of way. Any architect designing a building for use by large numbers of the public – a stadium or theatre, for instance – should include twice as many bathroom stalls for women as for men. On a hot day, your dog likes ice water just as much as you do. If you eat a little bit less, and exercise a little bit more, you’ll lose weight – no diets, books or courses needed.

And not just the stuff to do and not do, but something to help you understand the reasons behind each thing, so you could work out the rest on your own when you came up against a novel situation: Here’s why you NEVER point a gun at anyone, even if you’re absolutely certain it isn’t loaded. Here’s why you teach adolescents the basic facts of reproduction.

Sure, we’re supposed to know most of this stuff by the time we become adults. But how many of us do? And how many of us wish we had more of it?

For a lot of us, we’re told our tribe’s particular holy book contains all we need to know. Isn’t the Christian Bible the Book of Good Living? The Christian sales pitch would have you believe it is. And it has some good stuff in it, no doubt.

But it also has page after page of nonsense such as A begat B and B begat C, a lineage that has no bearing on modern life, and that probably even most Christians find confusing and irrelevant. Not to mention the fact that starting on the very first page of it, Genesis 1:1, the Bible is filled with fanciful stories, misconceptions and what today amount to outright lies, things that have nothing and less than nothing to do with good living, and that injure the trustworthiness of those other bits that do.

Also not to mention the really ugly stuff in the Bible, stuff that might have meant something in a more primitive time – for instance, that if you make fun of the bald head of a prophet of God, bears will come and tear you apart, and rightfully so – but that we know today is the exact opposite of Good.

And not to mention all the other sources of so-called wisdom – the bombardment of corporate and political messages, all couched in persuasive language and images, but aimed more at selling us something, or herding us like sheep, than at helping us live well.

The idea came up in a blog post. A wiki sprang up. People instantly had ideas they wanted to contribute.

And here it is.

Yes it’s new. Yes it is incomplete.

It has a lot of growing to do, and it will change, both in content and organization, and maybe even in direction, as it grows.

Some basic intentions included in the concept as the founders see it:

Everything in it will be based on wholly secular progressive values, the values of equality and individual human empowerment, of good living in the real world – not the obsolete world of tribal fantasy, however ancient, traditional or popular it seems.

It will be based also on environmental values, the understanding that “the real world” contains more than just humans and human concerns, and that the highest wisdom says you have to protect your home if you expect it to stay homey.

No part of it will be overtly religious. There is no place in it for mystical woo-woo, superstition, or modern pseudoscientific fluff. Everything in it must be based on science and reason. Every piece of it will be backed up by footnotes and links that will help each reader research the source material on their own.

But it should also be written mostly in common language, understandable to the average layman.

How the hell do you do such a thing? The massive complexity of life would seem to argue against even the possibility of compiling it. It’s certainly not going to go between the covers of a book – not even the index to the index to the index would fit.

But with the tools available to us today – modern connectedness and communication – it should be easy: You start somewhere, and you let it grow. You crowd-source wisdom and see where it leads.

You open it to contributions, you let the arguments take place, and you progressively shape and organize it, year after year, into what it should become: An everyday guide to living on this planet. A guide to living good, and living well. A way to assist in living with ourselves and others, in the real world. A companion down the years, to help each of us, dipping into it at need, to deal with the slings and arrows of life and to do it with grace and strength and hope.

The Book of Good Living. It starts here.


Hey, let’s do this. Come be a part of it. You know you want to.

The Book of Good Living: Innocent Until Proven Guilty
The Book of Good Living: Favors
Zoning Out on Liberal vs. Conservative Issues
The Book of Good Living: How to Avoid Being Killed By A Train
  • nigelTheBold, Abbot of the Hoppist Monks

    I like this a lot. It’s an excellent mission statement. If I may, I’d like to copy it over to the organizational Wiki.

    Also, to anyone interested in helping: there are two websites, and Only the .org is active at the moment. The .org is headquarters for editors and organizers, a place to help decide the structure, layout, and general functioning of the .com site, which will be the book itself.

    I have started a general skeleton for organizing the editor’s lounge (as I’ve taken to calling the .org site). However, I certainly don’t want to dictate my own ideas. I expect (or at least, hope) that my initial contributions will be a catalyst for others. I do not want this to be my site. I want it to be our site, a site for all who wish to do more than just contribute their wisdom.

    I guess what I’m saying is, feel free to jump in, mess with the structure, contribute ideas and web designs and images and help build this thing.

    • Hank Fox

      Copy it over!

      Also, I added a slight edit to the top of this post, in case anyone misses it:

      “If you can’t help in any other way, but like the idea, you can Facebook, tweet, Google-Plus, or otherwise snork (social network) the hell out of this post.”

  • buttercup

    I love this idea. I would like to suggest, however, that dating is not the same as taking a dump. that whole “don’t shit where you eat” thing applied to dating cow-orkers is rather gross. Relationships are not dookie.

    • kennypo65

      It’s not comparing relationships to dookie, it’s simply saying don’t deliberately complicate things,you’ll poison it.

  • anthonyallen

    I have to go to sleep now, but when I get up, I’m going to start fleshing out the Community Portal. That will be the place to find out what you can do to help, and I’ll have links to all the existing pages so far.

    In the meantime, add a page! Give us your wisdom!

  • Ophelia Benson

    Avoid self-importance. Remember it’s not all about you. Keep your Theory of Mind in good working order.

  • m5

    When you come out of a building with a group of friends and pause to talk, don’t block the sidewalk. Traffic rules (keep right, dont cut people off, let people pass) apply to people on the sidewalk as much as to cars on the road.

  • Randomfactor

    All of my rules can be generalized as: There’s enough entropy in the world. Decrease it where you can and don’t do stuff that increases it.

    Put things in order when you’ve got a moment–like standing in the grocery checkout. YOU put the separator behind your stuff on the conveyor belt. Don’t stand in peoples’ way. Wherever you are, pick up the litter. Recycle.

  • fastthumbs

    An excellent and ambitious project.

    Just some thoughts on organizing the lore and wisdom:

    - Sections could be age based and articles aimed toward that demographics – Youth, Teen, young adult, middle aged and the elderly.

    - Subsections should contain advice on dealing with
    parents, children, friends, adversaries, strangers, health (emotional and physical), authority (group and individual), work and play.

    I’m sure others could add/subtract from the list, but a key to conveying information is starting with a way to organize it.

    The other question is at what educational level to write the articles? A pHD dissertation whould be information packed, but I suspect would limit the accessiblity to the general population to the college educated.

    Another question is (I presume initially, this will be in English) what other languages are going to be supported? Then there will be cultural differences based on race, religion, and location. If an ESL female reader (presumably a closeted atheist) from a third world, would any of the information in TBGL be useful or even relevent – some guidelines would be useful here of what the expected content should contain and who it might be most useful to.

    • Zinc Avenger

      I’d say that it should all be pitched at a level that can be understood by an ESL reader at the very minimum. You don’t write a car manual with purple prose – unlike, say, the bible, the intention is to be simple and useful, not obfuscatory and open to any interpretation.

      • anthonyallen

        Absolutely agreed.

        In fact, I think I’m going to add that to the guidelines page.

      • nigelTheBold, Abbot of the Hoppist Monks

        fastthumbs, Zinc Avenger:

        All most excellent suggestions. I hope you’ll help out, but in any case, we’ll steal all you suggest and put it before the editors. Which, at the moment, is me and anthony and (I hope) Hank. And anyone else that signs up for the organizational wiki and contributes.


        I’ll try to have the actual “Book of Good Living” wiki up tomorrow. Would you mind doing an initial organization? I’m really a little unsure how to go about organizing a Wiki. I’ll post something both here, and on the editors’ wiki.

        All: I’d like some help figuring out the technical requirements for the book itself. The way I see it, that’ll be a front-end for the Wiki, one that pulls specific pages from the Wiki and presents them in a (hopefully) pleasing manner. It’d be nice if we could also figure out a timeline for having the book up and operational, with a modicum of wisdom and advice.

  • Flex

    Heh, I’ve got a couple rules of thumb.

    1. In any estimation of time or money for a project, once an accurate assessment is made, add 20%. This will cover most of the things overlooked in the initial estimate and cover mistakes made during the project.

    2. In ordering pizza for a large group, calculate 3 people for each large pizza ordered and 2 people for every medium pizza. Works for groups of 12 or higher. Some people will eat more and some less, but the above formula works surprisingly well.

  • Hank Fox

    NigeltheBold, anthonyallen, randomfactor, etc., I really want to talk to you. Give me a shout on Facebook: or via email: hankfox1 [at] gmail [dot] com.

    • nigelTheBold, Abbot of the Hoppist Monks

      Hank, I’ve sent a couple of emails and a friend request on Facebook. Also, I’ve set up a mailing list. I’ve been doing some infrastructure work, though it all progresses slowly.

      Also, just in case you were expecting something from a “nigel,” that isn’t really my name — it’s Anthony.

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