Choice & Ethics

The Master tells the tale of a lake which was called the Lake of Salvation. Any family whose members cross the lake (by stepping on the rocks in the lake) was guaranteed to rid the family of the cycle of rebirths. The lake wasn’t too large. In 40-50 hops on the stones, one could cross the lake. Of course, there is a catch. A member of the family could only do one hop when s/he was of the age of 40. Hence, each new hop needed a member of the new generation in that family. The Master said, “There was always a mist over the lake. None could see more than one leap ahead of them.” He paused before continuing, “What to say of a mind that knows not the scent of a shore?”

We are a species that revels in paradox. We like to uphold our right to choose but also expect that we will choose with complete respect to truth & harmony.

All wrong choices — it is hoped — will eventually be eliminated from the face of the earth by a suitable application of the balm of education.

There is nothing wrong in that hope per se. Where it does get corrupted is in the assumption that awareness & education automagically implies transformation. This has been repeatedly proven to be false (e.g. cancer & smoking, texting & driving, diabetes & high sugar intake).

Education was never supposed to bring about transformation because education cannot eliminate stubbornness or idiocy.

Where we cannot count on education to bring about necessary change, we introduce laws (e.g. making trading of fresh ivory, drugs, etc. as illegal or laws regarding rape, larceny, etc.). But we do not treat every piece of truth necessitating such an urgent treatment. Hence, smoking tobacco will not have laws but smoking marijuana will, infanticide is illegal but culling male calves as part of the dairy industry is legal. This is the paradox we are willing to live with.

Let us take non-vegetarianism. The lame response to the issue of meat consumption & differences in treatment of animals vis a vis human beings is that animals & humans are different. But the same person would object to someone killing his pet parrot or hamster. Then it becomes a matter of personal property. We believe we can own anything & any creature other than a fellow human being (because slavery is abolished else that would be ok too).

It was assumed that education would help rid the “superior” man of the notion that he could own the “inferior” man. It needed a law to make it happen.

Countless studies on the interdependence of human beings & animals/insects/birds, it was hoped, would educate & rid the “superior” species of the notion that he could own & decide the fate of “inferior” species. Species have gone extinct & yet we do not feel the need for a single blanket law against poaching animals (chicken or blue whale). We will wait for each species to cross that threshold of rarity, mark them threatened or endangered & then bring about a law.

If education is insufficient in bringing about transformation why do we continue to hide behind it & hope for a miracle? Since we know (cf. Thinking, Fast & Slow & The Art of Choosing) that we are often irrational & uneducated in our choices, why would we place the right to choose over and above the wisdom of the conscious few? Since the ignorant & stubborn, greedy & idiot are unlikely to make wise choices &, when coupled with power & money, will force others to make unwise choices, why do we regard the right to choose so highly?

We are informed & aware but not educated when we cease to bear in us the ability to choose consciously what is right.

As long as human choice is granted superior status, ethical behaviour cannot be realised. Every proponent of free will & right to choose, chooses to ignore this reality. All education treats history as a painting & the present & future as pliable.

An education that doesn’t place every human being in the continuum of several millenia is not education. It is merely relating information.

We are not our lifetime. Current education indirectly focuses our entire attention & industry on our present lifetime. This mad rush for exercising the right to choose (borne on limited wisdom) within a window of time that is small enough in isolation but crippling in summation.

When all one can see is the set of nearest rocks to jump on, there is very little to guide them regarding the right direction towards the shore. Such choices could leave generations of people jumping around in circles thinking that they are great enough to be saved.

We think education & awareness will bring alignment between choice & ethics. Centuries of experience will still not educate us into the realisation that education doesn’t guarantee wise action & behaviour. What this corrupt world of human beings needs are a bunch of laws to leave the common person to focus on picking between a red, yellow or purple pencil. Sadly, these laws are the only ethics that man can understand & follow.

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8 thoughts on “Choice & Ethics

  1. I love your post, though I don’t completely agree. There are a number of things to consider in our school systems. People are not taught to consider real choices, or to think for themselves. I know that I had a capacity for philosophical thoughts at a young age, and it took years before I realized that others didn’t share that interest, or maybe the intellect necessary. I still believe that ethics and philosophy should be a natural part of schooling; I also missed the larger perspective, in ex. a timeline that showed all the subjects together. The testing, exams and endless repeating actually hurts people’s capacity to learn; they lose interest and passion, even though every child loves to learn at first. The neglect of creative subjects in school also is part of destroying people’s awareness of choices. I believe that our society structure, that values money above human spirit, is behind the school systems; and the empowerment -and truly free choices- are a threat to those systems. I do not believe that empowerment is a threat to society, but against capitalism…

    1. Dear A,
      Thank you for stopping by. I am terribly saddened that WordPress seems to force me to moderate comments which I do not wish to do. But till I figure it out… 🙂
      I completely agree with you & your views are not in contradiction to mine. Nonetheless, the contents of this post aren’t about what should be in a schooling curriculum (there are posts way back in the archive about that). This post simply raises an observation that even if we brought in creative subjects & abolished all rote learning & regimental exams, we cannot expect education to bring about transformation. Unless you wish to extend the definition of education to be a lifetime support & learning (which no schooling system provides or can provide) & even then you cannot guarantee it because we also wish to provide freedom of choice.

      We do inform people & educate them with material about the dangers of something. Yet, they insist on continuing with it. Be it drinking & driving or smoking & cancer, etc. This post is about the simple paradox of choice & education. If you are to be allowed to choose, you will also choose the kind of education you want (if at all) & in spite of being educated, you can still make a choice contrary to the import of that act of education. I am not against education. I hope this post will dispel inordinate myths & expectations around education simply because we also wish to give every individual a complete freedom of choice. Freedom of choice guaranteed before transformation will work orthogonally to education (however we fashion it). Once educated & transformed, there is no choice; there is only (as the Taoists say) One Way.

      In summary, yes, whatever you say must be brought about in the educational system today. But as you go about doing it, you might want to ponder over the relationship between education & freedom of choice & ethics.

      1. thank you for twisting my mind. It’s been a while since somebody did that in such a brilliant way. I agree with you too; the educational system is not enough. People are not aware of what empowerment is, or they believe it’s only for superheroes. (!) I have a hope that people will choose empowerment when they realize the option! The society’s blindfold of mass media, advertising and news broadcast is part of the illusion, and so is generations of unaware parents…and so on. How can you choose empowerment if you don’t know the tools? The pain of life gives the strength needed to think for yourself, but the point of transformation comes in different stages of life: the point where you can’t take the old paradigm anymore. The internet is young, and it will help to educate more and more people, to know that they have the choice of empowerment. Many young people are wise beyond their years, to make these choices Before they have children to corrupt. (!). I hope. I know there is no suggestion on your part, to actually impose laws that herd people in the direction of making ethical choices…or is there? Do you believe the human race is hopeless because of our so called Free Choices? Is a choice “free” when people are not educated (in school, by parents or through media) that our personality is greatly influenced by our parents/family, and when society teaches us the lie that the only real value is money?

      2. I see what you mean. The problem is, I don’t see that we have a completely free choice. we are bombarded with media and advertising that influence us. the influence from parents/family is so strong, that people take for granted that “it’s the way that it’s supposed to”. empowerment is to see beyond the subconscious mirroring, and that can be part of an education, both from aware parents, and school. I believe that internet will have more and more power to inform people. the internet is so young! this IS the free information, upon which people may educate themselves. when it comes to the One Way, there are actually many ways to empowerment, and I believe that people have too choose it, or else it’s not a True way… I don’t think schools are enough to make people truly transform, but it would help if people were taught to be dependent on themselves. my question is; do you believe there is no hope for humanity, then? no laws could ever make people truly change. in fact, I believe laws are a symptom of the lack of empowerment in our society: that we think someone should “govern” us. it is only when we find our inner authority that we find the Way… (I re-wrote this, because it seemed to be deleted when I posted it)

      3. Dear A,
        Both your comments are here. Did you write more, which you fear is/are lost? I think this notion of schools being a cloistered environment where “teachers” are responsible for an individual’s education is simply the industrialisation of education. Send them to the processing unit! But we can discuss this elsewhere. I will address here 2 questions:
        1. Is there free will? Honestly, I am still evolving my understanding around this. Does free will mean “will untainted by any external influence”? I don’t think so, because that can never happen unless raised by Nature on an abandoned island but even then, one’s thought process might be influenced by laws of Nature & animal herds & our past. Free will to me is the freedom to explore/choose/act in absence of coercion of any sort. Influence from media, the Internet, etc. are all permissible because we assume that the human mind is fully capable of discerning truth amidst all presented information. If we are only presented lies, free will still exists in choosing the most convenient lie. But if the lies have been systematically built over time & life, then is that master plot a coercion or not? Psychologists & philosophers are still debating all of this, btw. I apologise for not having an answer (assuming you were expecting one).

        2. Is there hope for humanity? Regarding what? That we will be rid of suffering, malaise, illness, violence, etc.? No chance. We can never be rid of it. Is there hope that we will be making wise choices which cater to life beyond our lifetimes? No. Is there hope that we can rid our children of propaganda, misdirection & fill them with complete compassion & goodness? Nope. None whatsoever. All attempts at making the world uniform in persona (even if that persona is of a good selfless kind human being) are doomed. Is there hope that we individually introspect, meditate & allow the flower of truth to blossom & radiate that beauty to perhaps one or two other people? Most certainly yes. Is there hope that individual meditation can, over time, spread & infect the collective consciousness with an increasing ability to align itself with Time & Truth? Yes… I hope so. Is there hope that goodness will thrive? That though human beings are the source of many a problem, the same are the founts of solution & insight? Yes… 🙂

        Laws are necessary when we cannot trust everyone to be wise & complete. Since not everyone is that, we create laws to mark the playing field in the hope that miscreants will leave the innocent & ignorant at peace & not exploit/harm them.

        You don’t need to be knowledgeable & informed in order to live The Way. The fool is most often aligned with The Way but cannot show it you if you asked him. So be it with trees, birds & animals. As far as trusting the internet to educate or inform people, I would only smile. Which is the honest source? Is the information truly not controlled by governments? How do you validate everything you read/see/hear on the network?

        What stays true when all possible doubts assail your mind?

        I am glad that you found something interesting to read on this blog. 🙂

      4. thank you, I really like the way you write 🙂 still, I feel that there is a dichotomy in your answer. I don’t believe in the education system either, but for ex. how can people know about, or learn meditation without having someone to teach them? The internet offers free information, and yes, people will have to discern lies from truth, from their own experience, but many of the lies that I grew up in have been dissolved both by the education I sought from books, internet and good teachers (though not school teachers.). In my opinion meditation was not enough to light up the way for me because I grew up without knowing trust, love or a feeling of safety. I had to Meet those things to know, and well, books or meditation didn’t do it..but they helped me on the way, and brought hope.. My free will was to seek those things, but my sight was veiled. I had to see that the cold people I met, and became friends with, mirrored me. I had become cold too, and I was completely oblivious to it. I got help. The point is, I lived a lie for many years, even when I meditated, and my choices were bound up in repeating patterns because of it. I believe many people are bound up like I was, and many are un-aware that there is help, and a way to empowerment. I am a seeker, and the issue of free will is important to me. I am still searching for a more true voice inside, and I am lucky to have found so much of myself… I was lucky to know that I had lost something important.
        I guess I wished people knew that Truth exists. and maybe someone who reads our blogs will get an epiphany or two… (ps. I didn’t delete after all;))

      5. Dear A,
        I am glad you enjoy the words here. Not sure how I ended up implying that, but I DO believe in education. I just don’t believe that the current schooling system is thorough & I also don’t hold inordinate expectations of education. So any education that comes your way must be welcomed with open arms. No questions there. Be it from books, teachers, observation or the Internet. Sending you a warm hug across oceans! 🙂 I am glad you had such a journey & have so much to share. All education is a journey within (hence, the name of this blog). Yes, I wish we get to share more thoughts & insight on the way.
        You don’t need a teacher or a book to meditate. Meditation is not sitting quietly under a tree, fasting endlessly or acting all ascetic. Meditation is not all Occidental mumbo-jumbo. It is merely being completely aware of what is & going into it without any personal preference of outcome or understanding. Hence, it appears in every single activity of yours. Can a book or a teacher teach you to go into what is? No. Only you can realise it. Some might be able to give you some tips or exercises but that is it.
        Perhaps it is just me, but I strongly hold that all realisation exists in the individual wrapped with layers of ignorance (like an artichoke). Complete realisation is hence, an individual journey within. No book, no teacher, no school can teach you how. You must feel the how & allow the journey to unravel. Nature exists because we must embark on this journey & Nature alone can speak to us on this journey.
        Once again, I read your comment (& had read your posts), and send you a warm hug. Brimming with joy & admiration for the energy & diligence you have embodied on this journey. You truly are an amazing soul. Please don’t let the strongest hand of Fate nudge you from your resolve. And as a voice in the wind, I assure you, I am around… 🙂

      6. 🙂 big hugs to you too, and thank you again. I don’t find many souls with such insight like you have, or the ability and skill to express it, but I am always so happy when I do.

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