Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Sins

This post refers heavily to two others- the post on Stoic Emotion and the one on Beliefs, Values, Morals, Ethics.

After the entry about Stoic Emotion, Kevin commented, in part: "However, there is also higher emotion, and it's much harder to define. Actually, I think you gave a very good example: our inner sense of right and wrong.We feel that something is "just plain wrong". Why is it wrong? We don't know. There is no concrete, logical, factual reason why it should be."

Gently, I disagree. This is the moral level, the general feeling of right and wrong. But it is based on deeper levels that are concrete and factual and (internally) logical. If you understand your beliefs- (the things you hold to be true) and your values (comparison of importantance between beliefs) each thing that you feel is "just plain wrong" makes perfect sense.

It doesn't always make _good_ sense. Most of our beliefs and values are forged in early childhood and never really questioned. Sometimes if you look at them closely enough you will find an ugly nugget of belief (racism, for instance) or value that you deny at higher levels of thought.

In the sense of "just plain wrong" there are two things that I identify as sins- offenses against god and nature. They are my absolute deepest values and color everything that I do and am and every judgment that I make.

My two sins are WASTE and DECEIT.

I don't intrinsically value life. Everybody dies. The sin is to have a life and not live it. A murderer may take twenty or thirty years from your life- a catastrophic waste. A job you hate may take as much. Suicide and doing nothing are both just plain wrong... because in both cases you are wasting your own life. Not because of the death, but because of the not living.

To destroy something for the sake of destruction is a waste. To injure the psyche of a child is a waste. Almost everything that I think of as wrong involves either actively or passively not bringing something to potential... and I draw little difference between the active and the passive. Honestly, I feel more sympathy for honest suicides who seized their last moments and made a statement than I do for people who never did anything out of fear of failure or fear of success or fear of change. Because I have another belief: Everything you do and everything you choose not to do are equally your responsibility.

Note: You don't have infinite time or resources or talent. I don't expect you to have trained your voice for opera and your brain for seven languages plus physics and medicine and your body for the decathlon while keeping a perfect home and a wide circle of friends... but if you have time and/or talent and/or resources and desire you should be doing something, even if only to glory in doing nothing on a windy afternoon.

Deceit is the second sin. Maybe the first. My father used to say that "Lying is the small evil that makes all other evil possible." Another wise person said that "Lying is always an act of fear. You never lie except to someone you are afraid to tell the truth to." Every lie is an act of cowardice. My father also defined a lie as "any attempt to deceive".

The worst, of course, is lying to yourself. Integrity is having mind, heart and body together; words and actions in accord. Any deception or inconsistancy between heart and mind dissolves integrity and dilutes you as a human being.

But deceiving others is a core evil. Humans are barely fit to survive in the wilds. Without a tribe or specialists in an extensive alliance, we would mostly starve. That alliance can only be maintained if our agreements hold. If our words presage our actions. If money is what we decide it represents. Without these...waste. Children dying of starvation. No medicines delivered or developed.

Deceit doesn't need dire consequences to be wrong. Theft, pretending that the people who worked for something have no more right to it than the thief, doesn't always result in catastrophe, but it is part of the friction, part of the general inefficiency that contribute to waste, loss and pain.

Writing this I realize why, in my mind, Waste is worse than Deceit: Because I am willing to use deceit to prevent waste. I will tell a lie to save a life or prevent harm.

Thanks, Kevin, for the opening. And for the thoughts on Andy. Never worry about speaking your mind.


The Moody Minstrel said...

Okay, I see your point. Thank you for giving an excellent counterpoint without crumbling into the irrational rant sessions that seem to be an intrinsic part of blog life.

Anonymous said...

Can one then use a lie to make amends for other lies?

Anonymous said...

An aside, but worth a post. A Warrior fell today in a scuba accident. A quiet, intensely personal man that few liked but who had a giant heart, an inquiring mind and a thunderous punch. Few liked him because he was considered 'eccentric'. But his short time on earth will count in the evolution of the Universe. Brad Horner, I salute you and will catch you on the flip side.

The Moody Minstrel said...

A scuba accident? Horrible way for a Warrior to go!