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Erik Hare

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Blogs by Erik Hare

Moral or Political?
2/25/2008 7:28:06 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]


Happy Tuesday! This is the day when I answer my mail, and I have some good ones today. Let’s get right on it:

You said that you “don’t believe in morality”. I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means.

No, I don’t think it does, but I had better explain myself. Let’s start with Merriam-Webster’s definition of “morality”:

1 a: a moral discourse, statement, or lesson b: a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson
2 a: a doctrine or system of moral conduct b: plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3: conformity to ideals of right human conduct
4: moral conduct : virtue

What problem could anyone have with that? Let’s start with the meat of it, which to me is definition 2, a doctrine or system of moral conduct. That implies an identified list of proscribed behaviors which are somehow agreed upon by at least some number of people. Then there is definition 3, conformity to ideals. That sounds more debatable yet, meaning that it is something that people have worked out as “norms”.

I strive for something higher than mere “morality”. There have been many times in my life when I felt in my guts, “This just isn’t right”. Most of the time, I can’t even tell you why I feel that way until I’ve had a chance to think it over a bit. Meanwhile, the time for action may have passed. If it was necessary to relate every time I had this feeling in my guts to some socially acceptable code many moments would pass without being challenged.

Life is made up of moments like this, as far as I’m concerned. I rely on my guts, and when they tell me something isn’t right then I know it isn’t right. I don’t need a list of acceptable doctrine in front of me. When it comes down to fight or flight, I like to know that I can make a decision I won’t regret later.

That’s what this passage from the Tao Te Ching is describing (Stan Rosenthal translation):

5. WITHOUT INTENTION
Nature acts without intent, so cannot be described as acting with benevolence, nor malevolence to any thing.
In this respect, the Tao is just the same, though in reality it should be said that nature follows the rule of Tao.
Therefore, even when he seems to act in manner kind or benevolent, the sage is not acting with such intent, for in conscious matters such as these he is amoral and indifferent.
The sage retains tranquility, and is not by speech or thought disturbed, and even less by action which is contrived. His actions are spontaneous, as are his deeds towards his fellow men.
By this means he is empty of desire and his energy is not drained from him.


Tough stuff for Western eyes, I realize. Does this mean that everything is perfectly acceptable once we ditch “morality”? Not in the slightest. It means that by following the way of nature we follow our most inner voice. As a gregarious animal, that voice within us is usually kind and helpful. But it is hard to listen to that voice when what echoes through our head is a proscribed code of conduct in all situations.

That’s what I mean when I say I don’t believe in “morality”. I think there is a higher calling that is much harder to describe. I don’t feel I have to describe it, either. We all know what that inner voice is.

Another topic for the week is here:

I like how you took on the Times. I don’t understand the mainstream press at all anymore. They seem to be into ‘gotcha’ journalism more than what I would call ‘news’. But you sure are into politics lately.

Thanks. I’m going to have to back off of politics, or at least national politics, for the time being. I don’t have anything new to say. I wanted to take on the Times because I think they are doing a terrible disservice to the nation, so my point wasn’t political as much as it was commentary on the state of our newspapers. Having done that, the point is made, and I need to go on. We have some fascinating local issues in Minnesota that should be covered, most of which involved transportation. It can be dry stuff, but if we can get something good happening, it’ll be wonderful.

That’s the mail for the day. Still think I’m an amoral crackpot? Does this all seem to explain why my politics isn’t ready for prime time? Send me mail as wabbitoid47 at yahoo.com and we can talk about it. I may even agree with you, if for no other reason than to be even more frustrating than usual!


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More Blogs by Erik Hare
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• Citizen Journalism - Monday, July 21, 2008
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