Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Godless Law, Commented

Starting from the principle of survival, it is possible to flesh out a set of ethical imperatives modeled, for the sake of familiarity, after the tablets of Moses. To make the purpose of each imperative clearer, I have appended after each a brief explanation.

I. THOU SHALT LOVE THYSELF WITH ALL THY POWER, THY WILL, AND THY MIGHT, FOR THOU ART THE ONLY ONE UPON WHOM THOU MAYEST ALWAYS RELY.
Replacing any god with the true center of anyone's life, oneself, these ethical imperatives start at the real source of one's scale of values. The imperative to love oneself is not an endorsement of indulgence and bacchanalia. Alcohol abuse leads to diseases of the liver, promiscuous sex can kill, excessive eating leads to obesity, and so forth. You can't say you really love yourself if you inflict yourself any of these problems. The corollary proposes the reality that, in the end, no one loves you as much as you love yourself.

II. THOU SHALT MAKE TRUE IMAGES OF THYSELF, TO REVERE, CHERISH AND KNOW FULLY.
Lying to others about yourself through false images, false impressions, a false facade, is the beginning of lying to yourself about yourself. You can be proud only of the true self you are, which in one way or another is sure to have commendable traits, as well as drawbacks. Learn to know yourself as you really are and to respect yourself.

III. REMEMBER TO SET APART TIME FOR THY RECREATION AND JOY, FOR THOU HAST ONLY ONE LIFE IN WHICH TO REJOICE.
The Protestant Work Ethic deserves to be challenged. It is not a source of joy. Do you live to work or work to live? If you work hard, is it because it fullfills you or is it for some other reason that does not give you joy? Are the things you get through the fruits of labor really sources of joy to you, or are they what you think you are expected to have? Remember: you have only one life! Enjoy it for yourself, the true self mentioned earlier.

IV. BE MINDFUL THAT THOU CANNOT LIVE ALONE FOR LONG, THUS RESPECT ALL THOSE WHO NURTURE THEE.
In the Mosaic decalogue, this applied to parents. In reality, it should apply to all who are in the nurturing chain. We are not islands, we are social animals.

V. THOU SHALT NOT DIMINISH THE LIFE OF ANOTHER FELLOW HUMAN, WHETHER BY TAUNT OR PREJUDICE OR DEPRIVATION OR THE TAKING OF LIFE, FOR EVERYONE IS IN THE NURTURING CHAIN THAT NURTURES THEE.
I have expanded and made more explicit the most common ways in which even civilized human beings are likely to rob one another of life. Whenever we make life miserable for someone else, for even one second, we have stolen a possibility of joy that is irreplaceable. That second will never come again, that chance at some semblance of happiness is gone forever. We have killed that person for one moment.

VI. THOU SHALT RESPECT THE SURROUNDINGS THAT SUSTAIN THEE AND THY FELLOWS.
Biblical adultery, which was the object of the item at this location in Moses' law, was ultimately about maintaining an unquestioned lineage for the purposes of inheritance. I have expanded it to deal with a respect for not merely personal property but all things in the environment that allow us to live.

VII. THOU SHALT RESPECT AND HONOR THOSE THINGS THAT ENABLE THY FELLOWS TO SURVIVE, THEIR PROPERTY, THEIR FAIR AND JUST WAGES, WITH THE SAME RESPECT THAT THOU SHALT CLAIM FOR THAT WHICH IS THINE OWN.
The opposite of stealing is to respect what others need to survive.

VIII. THOU SHALT HONOR THINE OWN REPUTATION BY BEING A TELLER OF TRUTH AS BEST THOU SEEST IT.
This needs little commentary.

IX. THOU SHALT ENJOY THE FLESH OF OTHERS, RESPECTING THEIR OWN DESIRES AS WELL AS THINE AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY CONSEQUENCES THEREOF.
We need a positive imperative about sex, a principle that will allow us to enjoy our sexual side, so long as we respect others and live up to the duties that may arise as a consequence (parenthood or disease).

X. THOU SHALT REIN IN DESIRES THAT GIVE RISE TO HATE, THEFT, DISRESPECT OF OTHERS, DESPOILING OF THE EARTH THAT SUSTAINS THEE, AND THE DIMINISHMENT OF LIFE.
Here I take the ancient notion of coveting as a source of much mischief and expand it to cover any desire that, unbridled, leads to disrespecting nature and fellow human beings -- including greed, envy and prejudice. To raze a forest merely to make more money, to wish an accident for a neighbor who has a car that is better than ours, to derive one's own self-respect from a pejorative view of entire classes of people, these are instances of what this imperative is intended to prevent.

Now I have come down from the mountain.
Copyright © 2004 by Cecilieaux
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