We’re all used to seeing all sorts of articles popping up on our newsfeeds, day-to-day. Some tripe and trollop and some genuinely interesting. And then, inevitably, some which seem to be a blend of the two. Earlier on today I saw one such article from Erin Janus which claimed that the belief that “there is no such thing as right and wrong” is a ‘new age’ misconception. Now, I would like to go on record here and state that the ‘new age’ platter is writhe with misconceptions, crass oversimplifications, suppressive behaviour, covert cults and understated idolisation. And I would agree that the apparent disregard for “right and wrong” all together is exactly the sort of crass oversimplification I’m talking about. But when it comes to “right and wrong”, my perspective is not so black and white.
I’m not writing this to moan or anything like that. But being someone who tends to call bullshit on a lot of stuff and peel away all the illusions to reveal the fire beyond the smoke, I thought this was a perfect subject to write on today.
Usually, people in the ‘new age’ community tend to gloss over an objective understanding of right and wrong in order to justify doing or saying things which are just outright unpleasant or cruel and not at all becoming of a human. (as Erin put across in her post quite accurately in my opinion). Yes, the idea of “right and wrong” is treated as an obsolete map for navigating morality by most in the ‘new age’ domain. I would agree that the subjectivity of morality makes it difficult to establish a consensus – outside of the generally accepted “Don’t kill people, okay?” sort of expectations. Expectations which I personally feel are entirely justified.
There are, however, some people on this planet who have not seemed to grasp the subjectivity of morality and as such are required, by necessity and the rest of humanity, to treat morality as objective. People who think that the death penalty is different from murder and so on. I feel as though we, as a species, benefit from the blanketing of morality in these cases because it gives some people pause when it comes to the moment in which they finally realise themselves and say something like, “Wait, i’n’t killin’ people still killin’ people ev’n if t’e gov’ment do it?”
Aside from this though, in Erin’s post she shared a picture which states that “right” equals “correct and based on truth” which is equal to being “moral and in harmony with natural law” and, as such, actions based on the “right” decision being made “will not result in harm to others.” Next to “wrong” being treated as something which is “incorrect and not based on truth” which is then considered as equal to being “immoral and in opposition to natural law” and, as such, actions based on the “wrong” decision “will result in harm to others.”
To this, I must ask several questions…
- Has any decision ever been made where someone is not caused at least some emotional harm as a result of it?
- In extreme situations, can this not lead to people not making any decisions because they are worried/terrified that their choices may negatively impact someone, somewhere down the line?
- Within this black and white treatment of morality, where exactly is the result of any given decision considered to effect the person making the decision?
The reason I ask these questions is because, in our culture, the ideas of “right” and “good” are so heavily intertwined with making decisions which result in the happiness of everybody else and the unhappiness of the person taking the actions. Look at Hollywood’s portrayal of “heroes” and our society’s expectation of a “good mother”. In fact, if we’re looking at culture, within the domain of cultural narratives and patterns, it is the idea of the “right thing to do” that had caused so much suffering so many times over in the past. In the past, it’s been the “right thing to do” to go to war and kill people. It’s been the “right thing to do” to ostracise those who are different or afflicted with disease. It’s still now considered to be the “right thing to do” to pump kids full of medications to make them more appeasing for their parents.
For so long now, a rigid and objective idea of “right” and “good” has been a rough and cold hand, tightly grasping the expression and happiness of the people on this planet. Now, of course, I’m not suggesting here that going around telling people to kill themselves is okay by me. Nor am I suggesting that being a total bastard and saying that it’s “authenticity” is fine by me either. I detest that sort of behaviour. And, to address this, I’d like to put forward my understanding of where subjective and objective “right and wrong” and “good and bad” find their balance point.
Over the history of our planet as well as in our day-to-day lives we can see that there is consistent change between things being “good” and things being “bad”. Things tend to alternate between being as you want them to be and as you wish they weren’t. That is part of life. The rough with the smooth. Life is an oscillation between the pleasant and the unpleasant. Whatever we do, there will always be an element of upset in our lives. Without it life would be all smooth and, as such, development wouldn’t occur and development is integral for life to grow and thrive.
Instead of looking at decisions I am faced with in terms of the traditional objective sense of “good and bad” or “right and wrong” I treat them in terms of harmony and disharmony, construction and destruction. My understanding of these things have, over time, replaced my original definitions of “good and bad” and “right and wrong”.
When I am faced with a difficult decision, I ask myself:
- Which available choice will lead to a greater level of harmony for myself and those around me?
- Which available choices will I write off because they will lead to unreasonable and unnecessary disharmony for myself and those around me?
- Is the choice of action I’m considering going to be constructive in terms of sustainable happiness for myself and those around me?
- Is the choice of action I’m considering going to be destructive in terms of sustainable happiness for myself and those around me?
- Am I assuming responsibility for the happiness of others at the cost of my own happiness in making this decision?
- Will this decision cause unnecessary harm to others?
- Will this decision cause unnecessary harm to myself?
The list goes on. Of course, if you are not comfortable with the subjectivity of morality and are not inclined to the reduction of the suffering of yourself and others then it is recommended that your deal with your choices according to the traditional definition of good and bad.
Understanding that imbalance is temporary and that balance is always achieved through the natural flow of things – however long it takes – is a beneficial place to come to when considering the subjectivity of morality. This is because it results in us taking a more broad outlook on cause and effect. That said, I feel it’s important to mention here that to directly cause destruction and disharmony is a misuse of the understanding of subjective morality, regardless of the justification it has applied to it thereafter.
Flexibility is integral when it comes to this new understanding of “right and wrong” and “good and bad”. Flexibility in terms of doing what it takes to instate harmony in any given situation without compromising your own internal harmony. This is something I have spent years coming to terms with and developing my understanding of. And in all that time, the most sustainable advice I have come upon is, “Don’t be a cunt.” And if I was to say that I entertained one central dogma, it would be that one. And naturally from time to time, I do err on being a cunt and occasionally I can’t help myself. But that’s part of life. Temporary imbalance leading to further and more sustainable balance.
So, that list of questions I put to you above – the ones about decisions – they all sort of boil down to one question; the one inherent within my central dogma. That question is, “am I being a cunt?” And that’s the question I ask myself when it comes to making choices and calling myself out on potential illusions maintained. If the answer is yes, I apologise and rectify any wrongs I have done. And, and this is usually the case, if I’m lucky enough to catch myself before I do the cunty thing I was about to do then I smile and give the nearest person a big hug.
So there you go, “good and bad” and “right and wrong” redefined to “cuntiness and non-cuntiness”. I hope it helps! All it takes is a sprinkling of compassion! Hah!
Keep it real!
Live, love and play!