Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Respect the Boundary

Returning to my earlier ethical themes, I now turn to my VIth godless commandment: thou shalt respect the surroundings that sustain thee and thy fellows.

Biblical adultery, which was the object of the item at this location in Mosaic law, was ultimately about forbidding a woman's sexual liaisons in circumstances that might lead to questioned lineage of her children -- significant for the purposes of inheritance. The ancient biblical point was not about sexual morality, as in the dualist, Jansenist view of sex, but about property and the control of women.

In my new iteration of a decalogue based not on a supposed divine revelation, or inspiration, but on the ethical principle of human survival I transmuted the notion of control, a hierarchical view suitable for a theist conception into respect and the object of the verb into universally what sustains us.

Survival -- mine or yours -- is a cosmic thing, but also individual. Barring the spirit and afterlife, when my world ceases to exist, from were I sit, everything ends. My world begins with a sudden blurry light and ends in darkness. Inside that world I am me (and you, you), slowly distinguished from everything until the blurring toward death begins.

My existence and survival then, is rooted with the shifting, uncertain and largely imaginary lines between me and thee. Here I end, there you -- your personhood and identity -- begin.

The imperative here is to respect the line, keep it as a buffer, pull back if by chance or mistake we trespass it. To respect is to pause, to bow reverentially and utter India's Sanskrit greeting "Namaste" (I bow to you), to genuflect, to step back and behold the beauty of the other and the world.

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