The drive-thru at McDonalds was too long this morning so I decided to pull in and order in the lobby. On my way there, I found a $5 bill wrapped in a $20 in the parking lot. I looked around, picked it up and slid it into my pocket. Sweet! As the guy in front of me started to order, he began searching his pockets for 'something'. He told the cashier to wait and ran out to his car to get his wallet and returned to pay for his meal. While we waited for our breakfasts, I asked him if he had lost something outside. In a thick Eastern European accent he said 'I zink I lost twenty-fi dolla'. I reached into my cargo pocket, grabbed the fold of bills between my index and middle fingers and extended it out to him. 'Zank you wery much' he said.
Man that felt great!
So my question is...why the hell did I do that? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did, but why? Was it a completely selfish act knowing that it would 'feel better' to return the money than keep it?
Part of my left brain says it is a simple biological event engineered to release a cocktail of endorphins and dopamine that 'feels good'. Over 4 billion years of fine-tuning, evolution has preferred variants/decisions that lead to the preservation of the species and it is that 'wiring' that makes us know what is the 'right' thing to do, because we are rewarded with 'feel good' drugs. Caveman want food, caveman steal food, caveman beat on head with club for stealing food, end of line for caveman (and his potential offspring). I think even Laplace's demon would have a hard time correlating 4 billion years of events with my McDonalds moment.
The other part of my left brain says this is environmental conditioning. 40+ years of personal interaction and societal influences (which themselves have been fine tuned over 10,000 years of civilization) yielded that moment in McDonalds. The meaning of right at that particular moment was a personal one. Someone else may believe the right thing to do is to keep the money. Are right and wrong just shaped personal biases? I hope R v. W is something bigger than that.
My right brain, which has been getting a lot of attention lately, is more confused than the left side but luckily doesn't require the same level of clarity than the left side does to operate properly, nor does it need to adhere to the scientific method, but I suppose that is why we have 2 halves (evolved or otherwise). Good vs evil, right vs wrong, Nacho vs Cool Ranch. Epic questions...none of which was answered in the LOST finale :)
It has taken me 40 years to find Hope, at least I think I found it. Perhaps it will take another 40 years to find Faith and for me, I suspect right and wrong will play a big part of that.
Anyhow back to my McDonalds moment...as I'm driving out of the parking lot in my hail damaged 7 year old VW Jetta, I look in my rear-view to see the guy getting into his late model 7 series BMW. I had to laugh :)