What is acceptable and good?
The ever popular first, do no harm, is a great place to start. It may even be a good place to stop, but I have another 30 minutes to fill and I think it lacks an element of human psychology. The other way to go would be from a religious framework. But as much as I respect religious theory and theology in general, I have a problem with most religious frameworks of morality and acceptable behavior - even the best of them seem to be rooted in a system of threats, punishments and rewards. If you are bad you go to hell for ever and ever is one of the most brutal, but even "you reap what you sow," "karma is a boomerang" and the rule of three still come down to do good things and good things happen (you go to heaven), do bad and you get an almighty smack down. I see the use and need of such ideas. It works great for children and Zen Gnostics, but I think we can do better.
Where is there room for doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do?
I think most, if not all, people start with the idea of punishment. Most kids learn the word No before Yes, even my dog gets no. Then comes the idea of punishment for doing bad. Ideas of Hell and eternal punishment, often from a supposedly loving God (proving once and for all that all of western culture has daddy issues and should seek therapy), usually comes next. Whether it be sitting in the corner for all eternity or an almighty spanking, even the most enlightened religions have punishment and reward stories.
The next phase or level of ideological evolution seems to be the golden rule – you reap what you sew, what goes around comes around, Karma is a boomerang, what you do returns threefold, or tenfold, or however many times you can fold it all up.
Better, but still has that element of punishment to it, only it adds the element of personal responsibility that I like. Still a bit carrot and stick, but I really like it. I use the carrot and stick framework in many of my readings, but I'm still not entirely happy with it. It always leaves me wondering, why do people need the threat of punishment or the promise of reward to do the right thing? Where is the idea that taking care of yourself and the people around you, not for the benefit you may receive in the future or because reincarnation says you may be that poor slob next time around or what ever, but just because it is the right thing to do?
Don't worry folks, this is the most Pollyannaish I will get today, but I truly believe that the evolution of morality is doing the right thing because it is the right thing even if the only person or being watching you is you.
The crux of it is. If you truly know the difference between good and evil you cannot choose evil and still say you are on the path of light… and when you do evil works you cannot just say it was for the greater good or you had no other choice and shrug it off. Worse still, you cannot say we are the good guys and if we do it, it must be good. It doesn't work. Evil acts are evil acts no matter who is committing them or why they are being committed. And the core of evil of wrong, of casual choice is seeing people as things.
Here's the thing. You have to choose and you have to take responsibility. It's what being on a spiritual path is all about. You can't say "he did it," or "it's her fault not mine." You chose this life. You chose this path and you have to choose to take responsibility for your choices. Choice is the thing. It's our greatest gift and our greatest challenge. If we are gifted with free will and the knowledge of good and evil then everything we do and every choice we make is our own and no one else's… even the choice to give up that free will.
What you do is always your choice, you cannot say I was just following orders or everyone else was doing it, or just keeping up with traffic officer. It always comes down to you – making choices and going where those choices take you.
It is the action of making a choice that I believe is important and owning that choice. That is not to say you have to be all bold and brash, standing by a bad choice and refusing to admit you were wrong. No, what I mean is say "Yes, I chose to invade Pennsylvania. It was a stupid thing to do and I will not make that choice again." Don't blame bad advice or faulty intelligence. Stand up and say I did it and I take responsibility for my actions.
There has been a lot of faulty discussion about personal responsibility in the news lately, most of it related to the health care debate. And I suppose we need to talk about a subject I was trying to avoid: public or social responsibility. I was going to try to keep this personal, but the recent health care debate has brought personal responsibility front and center with the argument, why should I, someone who works out and takes care of himself pay for the healthcare for some slob who eats a dozen donuts a day?
I believe it is the duty of every person to take care of the body they have been given. To treat the body as a temple, caring for it, building it of quality ingredients and polishing the pews, as it were. It is also the duty and responsibility of every soul to care for others, to provide help and love and heath care to even the donut lovers. If you need to take it to a truly selfish level: if God and I are One. And God and You are One, then You and I are One and we should have drinks and get to know ourselves better.
But that is taking it back to the old carrot and stick, punishment and reward and we can do better. We can learn from these choices and we can say the choice was mine and I took it and I will learn from the consequences. If this was a lesson, if this was a test, I will take it and I will learn and I will take that and be better next time. There is always a next time.
That is the wonderful opportunity here at Earth school. There is always a next time to be better and to Choose Again and learn the lesson and pass the test and get ready for the next one and choose to take it.
You and I are on a wonderful journey here as modern mystics. We have the opportunities to be leaders and healers or be demons and monsters or to drop out and be just another person choosing not to choose. All I want is for you to make the choice and then choose again and again and again.
And to those out there who want to make the choice to scam and sleaze and sell snake oil all I can say is [Rips open suit to uncover Superman Logo}
[readon url="http://johnmichaelthornton.com/Video/Video/This-I-Choose-QA.html"]This I Choose - Ethics and Responsibilities of the Modern Mystic Continues in the Q&A[/readon]