I have a confession to make: I am a Whovian (aka, a fan of Doctor Who). Don’t worry, though, I’m not one of those uber-nerdy ones who thinks every Doctor after Tom Baker sucks, even though Baker is my default Doctorwe all have one, you know and it’s generally the first Doctor we ever saw. You may be wondering why I, an American, am so enamored of an English television series. There are a lot of reasons, but one of the best ones occurs near the beginning of the Series 8 episode Into The Dalek, when the Doctor asks Clara “Am I a good man?” Clara looks at him for a minute and says “I don’t know”. This is the kind of thing that keeps me coming back to Doctor Who. I enjoy the characters, the stories, the humor and the fact that it is so very British, but I love the way it takes on the bigger issues we all wonder about.
In one of my more profound moments, I told a friend that I thought most men want to be “good”, but we’re not always sure how to get there. It’s not easy, you know. We live in a world that doesn’t reward goodness; at least, not in a way that really motivates to us be “good”. Besides, how do you even determine what a “good man” really is?
I’m sure someone, somewhere, is suggesting the Bible, but that’s problematic to say the least. Our choices in the Bible are Jesus (who sets a standard that’s pretty much impossible to meet) and everyone other man (who sets the bar so low it’s laughable). A spectrum that wide is kind of hard to work with. Like I said, problematic.
What about historical figures like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr? Yeah, between Gandhi’s testing himself as a “brahmachari“(he slept with naked, underaged girls, including his grandniece in his bed) and King’s plagiarism and womanizing, they’re not exactly what you’d call “good”, either.
So, what about people in our lives? Probably the best man I’ve ever known was my father, but he wasn’t without his faults. With an explosive temper, blind (and incredibly misplaced) loyalty, a tendency to say offensive things once, we stopped to help a woman change a tire. When she tried to pay us, he said “No ma’am, this is the South. We don’t let our women change tires and an aversion to showing affection that bordered on touch phobia, like all the men listed above, he wasn’t a “good” man by any stretch of the imagination. But, he tried. God knows, he tried.
The more I write/think about this, I’m not sure it’s even possible to be a “good” man. I mean, if men like Gandhi and MLK aren’t “good”, what chance does a schlub like me have?
The Doctor doesn’t get answer to his question until the end of the episode when Clara says “You asked me if you were a good man and the answer is, I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point.” Like the Doctor, maybe I’m not a good man, but I try. And, as Clara said, maybe that’s the point.