Those of us who are fans of the actor/humanitarian, Paul Newman, might recognize the following mission statement from his vast food products enterprise: “Shameless Exploitation for the Benefit of the Common Good. This tongue in cheek statement was most appropriate for an enterprise that produced his salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, popcorn and a variety of other tasty goods, with all profits and royalties going to charity. At the time of his death, the amount donated stood at around $250 million dollars!
Much could be written on all that could be learned by the example of Mr. Newman’s life. We could start with the dedication to his craft and total disregard to the egoistic temptations that befall the majority of those who achieve similar public popularity. He was dedicated to his “art” and avoided the attention, idolizing and false glamour of the entertainment industry. He consistently demonstrated the ability to focus on things that mattered and dismiss the superficial.
Moving away from his accomplishments as an actor, let’s take a look at his statement “the shameless exploitation for the benefit of the common good”. What was Mr. Newman trying to say? What was he trying to convey and what were his thoughts behind the words? Well, assuming that none of us actually heard his thoughts on this matter, let’s proceed with the understanding that the following is humble opinion. Perhaps the artist in Mr. Newman would prefer audience interpretations. Allowing each of us relate our own way.
Did he really think that he was shamelessly exploiting? I think not. More than likely he was referring to the world of marketing and advertising that he was forced to enter to sell his products. Perhaps he felt some guilt by association despite being secure in his confidence that he was giving and not receiving. A necessary evil required to gain a greater goal.
Now, lets we examine the concept of the “common good” whom seem to be the beneficiaries of this shameless exploitation. Who are they? Where are they? What do they look like?
Mr. Newman once stated in an interview that he felt himself to be incredibly lucky and he wanted an opportunity to give to those who had been incredibly unlucky. Does this mean that he defined the common good as those who had been incredibly unlucky? Probably not. Let’s choose to believe that his reference to the common good regards a larger picture. The thread of goodness in each of us all tied together into one common spool/common good. This spool is humanity. This spool is us and by his actions to help the less fortunate he helped us all.
I believe Mr. Newman’s concept of the common good can be directly related to such thoughts as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “Love thy neighbor as you love your self.” We have all heard these rules to live by before. We probably all heartily agree with them, but the real question is to what extent do we incorporate them into our daily living? Paul Newman expressed by his actions an intuitive understanding that we are all part of a greater unity and to take care of one is to take care of all. He understood that it is better to give than to receive because he felt better when giving. This is an important point. He did not do it because society, religion or his mother told him he needed to be good. It actually felt good to give away.
If we were all focused on taking care of each other we would never have to worry about taking care of our self. The thread of goodness that unites us can be thickened and strengthened and then used to pull us closer together, until we are so close we cannot tell one from another. We are the common good and there is a Unity present if we truly can learn and act with the intention that it is better to give than to receive.