•    Morality Has No Conscience   

    Scales of Balanced Justice

    By-Line: Morality should NOT be thought of as society’s “Preeminent Guiding Light” in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. At best — it is a fickle, often truant, secondary stop-gap safety-net measure — in case something harmful sneaks past the real “Preeminent Guiding Light.”
    And what is the ‘real’ Preeminent Guiding Light?        COMPASSION.

    As noted in the Topic introduction entitled “Compassionate Truths” — Compassion is not widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and ‘groomed’ at home, in schools or at the workplace. But the Ego is. And so is the Intellect — the neglectful designer and CEO of Morality. And that is precisely the problem. Ego, by its own reckoning, sees itself as the nemesis and arch-rival of Compassion. Ego is exclusively self-inflected and self-directed to the “I – Me – Mine” obsessive concerns — making it, by its very nature, a ‘selfish’ preoccupation. Compassion, on the other hand, is always traceable to a concern for ‘others’ — making it, by its very nature, a ‘selfless’ exercise.

    As tendencies go, those who extol Compassion as the supreme virtue are often labeled “socialists” or “Marxists” (and anti-American). And those who tout Ego as the supreme virtue are typically labeled “capitalists” — “industrialists” — pro-American (and Ayn Rand devotees).

    In the developed countries of the west, societies first and foremost, widely revere, cultivate, respect, encourage and groom the individual Ego — while extolling its virtues as a hyper-motivator and a rocket propellant “call to action.” One could reasonably describe it this way: “The Ego has been ‘weaponized’ in order to cultivate a highly industrious, productive hive of worker bees.” The United States stands as the supreme example of its enormous success in this regard.

    Fundamental human perceptions, understandings and World views are all filtered through and fashioned by one of these two basic building block operations — Ego versus Compassion.

    In some religions, especially Buddhism, Sufiism and Taoism (and Christ’s teachings), Compassion is what is revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and groomed as the highest good. But statistically these religious factions are a small minority of all religious adherents. Most mainstream religions stand as extreme examples of acute Ego obsession — as in mammoth “Messianic Ego Trips” and “Delusions of Grandeur” that highly motivate adherents to “spread the gospel” and “convert the heathens” to their ideology. This has often perverted their original core teaching’s emphasis on Compassion. This perversion of religion was made possible when religion became dogmatized, politicized and monetized (weaponized) by manipulators with other agendas wholly unrelated to the religious teachings.

    The “Killer Bees” are bees that were weaponized in a laboratory, who then escaped and are now rapidly spreading across North and South America. What a brutal irony — because un-weaponized bees are man’s best friend. Without them we could not grow, en mass, all the food that feeds the World. The genesis of this colossal debacle? The greed of monumental Egos on “Messianic Ego Trips” blinded by “Delusions of Grandeur” who wanted bees that would produce more honey — for higher profits.

    This illustrates — surprisingly — that this is NOT actually an “Ego versus Compassion” warfront. The Ego, before it was weaponized like the Killer Bees, was not an irresponsible, dishonest, dangerous, malevolent instrumentality. It served a basic, important biological function — allowing humans to realize that the foot I see is attached to “MY” body and that “MY” foot and “MY” body are different from “YOUR” foot and “YOUR” body. This is a good thing to know — so we don’t amputate the wrong foot from the wrong body when such an operation becomes necessary.

    So Ego, per se, is NOT the enemy. It is only the ‘weaponized’ Ego that is an irresponsible, dishonest, dangerous, malevolent instrumentality. So the task, as most Buddhists well-know — is how to tame and de-weaponize the Ego so it is not a mortal threat to humanity’s well-being. Let’s now look closely at how morality has and has NOT been operating in society.

    One of the problems is this. Morality is erroneously understood to be the preeminent moral compass and guiding light in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. And as many historians have pointed out, “Social morality is immoral because it compromises with society.” Morality is context sensitive — relative to the widely accepted ‘norms’ of a particular time and place. It’s a chameleon. And that is its hypocrisy — which makes it unreliable and unworthy of its “Preeminent Guiding Light” status. It also tends to be a gutless coward. Albert Schweitzer once lamented the fact that physical courage is so revered, rewarded, respected and commonplace, while moral courage is so ridiculed, reviled, despised and so very rare (think ‘whistle-blower’ snitch).

    But by far, the most alarming misconception about morality is that it is perceived as being a kind of Jiminy Cricket inner “conscience” for each individual to listen to for guidance (as in the Pinocchio story). This is a patently false, erroneous depiction of how morality operates. Morality is strictly a ‘shaming’ device and nothing more. It works by instilling guilt for one’s moral offenses — and then subjecting the offender to public ridicule. Most importantly — morality is NOT an “inner voice” of conscience. Morality exclusively references an “external” value (public opinion) and it is context sensitive — relative to the widely accepted ‘norms’ of a particular time and place. It’s a chameleon. The only Jiminy Cricket inner-voice “conscience” there is comes by way of Compassion.

    In the Pinocchio story, Jiminy Cricket is the inner voice “conscience” of Compassion — NOT morality. Stated more succinctly — conscience is synonymous with Compassion, not morality. To be even more succinct — Morality has no conscience. That’s the problem with morality. Morality is strictly an opinion-poll-based weather vane that keeps looking to see which way the wind is blowing in public sentiments. When the social majority deems slavery to be a useful, productive, profitable, acceptable social practice — its morality does not condemn or shame that conduct as immoral. And when the social majority deems slavery to be an inherently unfair, unjust and unacceptable social practice — its morality condemns and shames that conduct. The conduct is exactly the same in both instances. So morality is an unanchored, shiftless chameleon that is swept along in the current generated by the faithless whims and vagaries and vicissitudes of public opinion. Hence morality can only be described as “having no conscience.” For this reason, morality is fully capable of being completely silent, non-judgmental and utterly complacent while unfathomably horrific atrocities are being openly and routinely committed — as happened during the Holocaust. One of morality’s chief crimes is cowardly habitual “Dereliction of Duty.”

    And when the foundation of a society is built around something as shiftless, derelict, fickle, capricious, faithless and volatile as morality — that society will, in turn, be deemed unstable. And that society will correctly be characterized as “having no conscience.” Thus it quickly becomes inescapably clear how vitally important it is that Compassion, not morality, be deemed the “primary function” Preeminent Guiding Light compass and guide for tempering, regulating, molding, influencing human behavior and values. Then Compassion will be readily available to all via the inner voice of conscience and empathy — a far deeper, more constructive, more enduring insight than morality’s shallow, ever-shifting “guilt” mechanism. Guilt should only be considered a secondary line of defense — a desperate last-ditch effort to regulate a sociopath who’s been alienated from Compassion.

    At this important juncture the critical point has to be stressed as to WHY morality today should never even be considered a significant guide for human behavior or a meaningful influence in American life. If the Trump era has taught us anything at all — it is that there are few moral consequences for even the most egregious, reprehensible conduct by public officials. Morality has little influence because there are such meager discernable consequences for immoral conduct. And morality keeps habitually falling asleep at the wheel. Morality has proven to be a cowardly shrinking violet — time and time again — failing to assert itself to temper even the most bone-chilling abusive human behavior. Without question, we have invisibly passed into a parallel universe where morality has largely vanished from our borders. But lets be honest — it had been in notable decline for a long time and it always was grossly inferior to Compassion as a compass and guide for human behavior and values.

    NASA’s shuttle had a fail-safe system with multi-layered alternate back-up options that relied on the many redundancies built into the shuttle. There was the “primary” function — which everyone hoped would work properly, so that no fail-safe alternate operation would be necessary. If the primary function failed, they had contingency plans in their “fail-safe” protocols that would actuate a totally separate back-up instrument, different from the primary instrument — and if that also failed, most often they had a third back-up alternative. With some of the most critical shuttle functions they had as many as 7 or 8 distinctly separate alternative options they could fall back on as a safety net. That was the concept of “fail-safe” — i.e., if it’s going to fail — make sure it fails safely.”

    Similarly — Compassion must be deemed the “primary function” Guiding Light compass — which everyone hopes will work properly, so that no fail-safe alternate operation would be necessary. But today, society has relegated that assignment to morality. It’s a misguided assignment. Compassion must be deemed the preeminent guidepost and the supreme guiding light relied upon in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. Ask yourself this — Just how comfortable would you feel being around someone where the only reason he doesn’t shoot you through the head and take your money is because such conduct is not currently morally acceptable — according to the majority in the latest opinion poll of the general population? Somehow, for me anyway, I would find it profoundly unnerving to think that the only thing saving me from a bullet to the head is the outcome of a fickle, often truant, transitory opinion poll referendum. And it gets even more frightening when you consider WHO was swept into the White House via one of the last opinion poll referendums.

    Compassion is the only appropriate, worthy candidate as the primary-function “Preeminent Guiding Light” compass for tempering, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. Now we can probably hear the roar of hysterical laughter from the skeptic who shouts “What an incredibly naive suggestion this is.” But that cynicism is also context sensitive. And the context right now is that Compassion is not and has not been widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and `groomed’ at home, in schools or at the workplace. At the same time — Ego has been. So the root cause of the problem — Ego (me is superior to us) — ends up at the top of the hierarchy as “Commander in Chief” — in the driver’s seat — while Compassion gets booted into the back seat and told to shut-up (more accurately — tied-up, gagged and thrown into the trunk as a hostage).

    Compassion is how we de-weaponize the Ego. If Compassion had been widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and `groomed’ at home, in schools and at the workplace, as Ego has been, it would not sound like such a ludicrous idea — making Compassion the “Preeminent Guiding Light.” If Compassion had gotten all the kudos, the ad spots, promotions, advancements, bonuses & incentives, tax-breaks and welfare hand-outs that Ego has gotten, Compassion would now be an enduring monolithic guardian and protector for us all right now. And that is the paramount point of this entire article!

    The bottom line is that WE created this monster — this perverted inverted value system and we did it at the grass-roots level, in the home, in schools, at work and in the gangs and groups we identify with.
    WE did this. WE can change it. And the motivation for change is “dire necessity.” The machinery for change is as grass-roots as it can get — start revering, cultivating, respecting, encouraging and `grooming’ Compassion at home — then take it to school with you. That alone is a sufficient start.

    Be a cynic at your own peril. It’s YOUR future. And your children’s children’s future.
    Compassion isn’t dead. It’s just sleeping beneath a long, hard Winter snow.

     

    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog


     
     

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    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog


     
     
  •    “You Gotta Be Happy” – An Ayn Rand Mantra   

    Scales of Balanced Justice


    “You Gotta Be Happy” – An Ayn Rand Mantra


    At issue is the Ayn Rand mantra “selfishness is a virtue” coupled with the embedded sentiment that “You Gotta Be Happy” — and the focus is on what that sentiment actually means.

    I take the position that — The notion of “You Gotta Be Happy” is a human concoction fabricated by the “Doctor Feel-good” social engineers, who believe Life must, at all times, be a bouncy, up-beat, jingoistic, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, cheery, rosy, bouyant Pollyanna fun-ride. When it’s not, the ‘patient’ must be ‘depressed’ and they’ve got the meds needed to “correct” this ‘medical defect.’

    I take the position that the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” inherently contains a fraudulent, emotively pumped-up spin and in Buddhism, this subtle point has great significance which often is missed by persons ‘indoctrinated’ in a Western materialistic culture — where ‘more’ is ALWAYS deemed better. This important distinction goes like this…

    The Western materialistic culture is, by its very nature, very dualistic. That is to say, we habitually live in a “Two Bin” sorting & sifting environment. When confronted with any ‘thing’ or any ‘person’ we instinctively sort them into one of two bins: 1. Good, 2. Bad. The third category, “Undecided,” gets wiped out because anything that cannot be judged good is deemed Bad by virtue of its uncertainty, its unpredictability, its unreliability, its defiance relative to a “Good” rating.

    A “Good” rating, in Western materialistic culture, is invariably derived from a tunnel-vision selfish, i.e., self-centric, self-serving interpretation of the impact which the person or thing may have on the individual observer. A ‘thing’ that is deemed useful, advantageous, profitable, gratifying, manipulable, attractive, exploitable, etc., for one’s ego-self is deemed to have merit which we call “Good.” A ‘person’ who is deemed to be useful, advantageous, profitable, gratifying, manipulable, attractive, exploitable … someone who is deemed to make us feel “good,” important, superior, wise, profound, revered, desired, wanted, is deemed to have merit which we call “Good.” Everything else we call “bad.”

    In our Western materialistic culture we are instinctively “attracted to” things and persons that are deemed “Good.” And we are instinctively “repelled by” things and persons that are deemed “Bad.” That is to say, in our Western materialistic culture we are instinctively “attracted to” things and persons who are deemed to fulfill our “egotistical self-centric immediate needs and desires.” And we are instinctively “repelled by” things and persons who are deemed to have an adverse impact or a “zero-sum-gain” impact on our “egotistical self-centric perceived immediate needs and desires.”

    The Tao Te Ching, written 2,500 years ago in China, spends a great amount of time talking about this human tendency, which has been honed to a razor’s edge in the Westwern materialistic culture. The Tao talks about a great tree that has lived to be thousands of years old … because it is deemed by people to be useless. It’s branches and limbs are twisted and gnarled and so it cannot be used for wood. Its leaves are pungent and poisonous so they cannot be used for food or shelter. Its limbs and bark give off a noxious, poisonous smell when burned, so it cannot be used for kindling.

    Because the tree is deemed to be utterly useless by human-kind, it has therefore managed to live to be thousands of years old. Thus it is said in the Tao, That which is useless “endures.” That which is deemed useful “comes to an early end.”

    Some religions share this ‘different’ Taoist view. The idea is that which human-kind deems inferior and useless, is what God most cherishes. Some religious teachings are steeped in this core understanding. Christ stated it as “Least on Earth … Greatest in Heaven.” And he issued the prescription, “As above, so below.”

    Many religions teach that “Least in Man’s eyes is Greatest in God’s eyes.” Their core teaching is that Everything has integrity in its own right, by virtue of the fact that its Creator gave it an existence. Many religions teach that “A person or thing exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of something else or someone else.” This is the most fundamental, universal spiritual teaching shared by many great religions. All things have inherent integrity in their own right. It is the teaching of COMPASSION and respect for all things. It is what St. Francis and environmentalists understand so well.

    And so we are impaled on the horns of this harsh reality … the only thing that can endure … is that which humans deem worthless … without intrinsic value — precisely because it cannot be exploited. And that which is absolutely essential to human existence — like clean air and water — can NOT “endure” — precisely because it can be and is plundered and ruthlessly, recklessly exploited for the most trivial of reasons — profits and the almighty $dollar$. Thus when viewed through the tunnel-vision self-centric human lens — the right to engage in irresponsible self-destructive profiteering behavior is “enshrined” as the highest ‘good’ — the greatest ‘value’ and an inalienable right.

    Thus we are deeply embedded in this Western materialistic cultural environment with its propensity for the “Two Bin” self-centric utilitarian sorting system. Yet this militant utilitarianism is inherently antithetical to any spiritual or compassionate notion that “A person or thing exists FOR ITS OWN SAKE and not for the sake of something else or someone else.” So now we can readily see why the western materialistic model is deemed to be truant, inherently defective, patently dishonest and self-destructive. That which fails to put a smile on our face, fails to give us an ego-massage or an orgasm or a profit … that which fails to subordinate itself to our every whim and petty desire, is deemed to be worthless … having no intrinsic value. This Western materialistic cultural environment has monetized and dogmatize the value of ‘things’ and ‘beings’ and it has, thereby, trashed a lot of good people and a lot of good things because of its stunted, short-sighted tunnel-vision truancy.

    So now we come around full-circle back to the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … with its Western Culture materialistic background. This is the mantra and the dogma of the “Dr. Feelgood” society, owned by the Pharmaceutical Industry, which has a monkey on its back by way of a fairly serious drug & alcohol addiction problem. Given this unmistakable Western influence, I am simply advocating that we refrain from embracing and legitimizing the ‘feel-good’ sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … as it is being generated by the opaque, self-centric, tunnel-vision dogma of a Western materialistic culture bent on placating greed and short-sighted desires in a self-destructive downward spiral — steeped in its commitment to Ayn Rand devotional anthems touting the virtue of “egotism” … and “narcissism” and “selfishness” and hedonism and the demented World View that only one’s own ego self has ‘value’ and all other ‘selves’ are worth nothing.

    The problem with the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” is laid bare by considering the spate of Buddha statues that abound around the World. There are an incredibly wide variety of Buddha statues. The India statues tend to always depict Buddha as rather gaunt, with a slight pained grimaced expression on his face. Perhaps that is because many Indian cultures emphasize the ascetic nature of the Buddha’s life.

    The western Buddha statues tend to always depict Buddha as quite “Fat & Happy” … usually reflected in a cherubic body with an avuncular smiling face. But the “Truest” depiction of the Buddha in a Buddha statue is reflected in the gigantic Japanese statue of the Buddha sitting in a full lotus posture, holding the mudra with both hands, just below his naval. The expression on the Buddha’s face is astonishing. It is not smiling in any way. It does not express pain or sorrow. Neither does it express sadness or joy. When you examine the face carefully, it has absolutely no emotive expression whatsoever. And what is remarkable about this Buddha expression is that it is NOT devoid of expression, even though it does not express joy, pain, happiness, sadness or sorrow.

    The Buddha’s expression in this extraordinary Japanese statue expresses pure “Serenity.” “Peace and Tranquility” … which Shunryu Sazuki best described as “Imperturbable Composure” (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” by Shunryu Sazuki). There is no ‘strain’ in the face. A face that is smiling or is grimacing or is sad … is strained. If ever there was a pure, faithful artistic depiction of simple “Peace, Tranquility” and “Serenity” this statue is it. Whoever was responsible for creating this remarkable Japanese statue surely understood the full meaning of the Buddha’s teachings.

    And so, to understand this extremely subtle distinction being made regarding the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” … is to understand the paramount distinction between feeding into the rampaging, insatiable appetites of the ego versus finding peace, contentment, tranquility and fulfillment with what we already have — without needing more. Understandably — capitalism feels threatened by this — while the environment derives ‘hope’ from this alternative World View. To depict Christ or Buddha as extolling the virtues of pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering they endured, is to misrepresent their teachings. To depict Christ or Buddha as extolling the singular virtues of joy and happiness because of the pain and suffering they sought to transcend, is to misunderstand, entirely, the meaning of their lives as teachers.

    The Heart of their teachings is that midway between the Yin-Yang positions of Joy and Sorrow is something which is neither. And that “something” which is neither, is … pure “Peace” and “Serenity and Tranquility” … which Shunryu Sazuki aptly described as “Imperturbable Composure.” It is only from within this subtle ‘place’ that all of reality, as it actually is, can be understood, respected and accepted — unconditionally — as having its own integrity — existing FOR ITS OWN SAKE, not for the sake of something else or someone else. And it is only from within this subtle place that what we already have — is understood to be — more than sufficient.

    This is the True “submission” being asked of us us by the teachings of Islam, and Buddhism and Christ’s teachings, and by the teachings of many other religions. It is the surrender of the small “self” … the “ego self” in deference to the higher “Self” which embraces all things and all beings in its circle of Compassion.

    This, I believe, expresses the supreme difference between the sentiment “You Gotta Be Happy” versus the alternative known as pure “Peace, Tranquility” and “Serenity” … which Shunryu Sazuki described as “Imperturbable Composure.” The latter is self-sufficient, content and needs nothing more. The former is hostage to the perpetual need and greed of insatiable appetites which can never be appeased. The latter is not leaning against anything. It is not ‘engaged’ but rather is completely and totally “disengaged.” It is not grasping for something or clinging onto anything, nor is it pushing anything away. The latter expresses that which is already enduring, complete and self-sufficient unto itself, while the former is hostage to that which is transitory, ephemeral and fleeting … that which is grasping for something … clinging onto something — in a futile effort to maintain and perpetuate its existence … The former is dependent on something transitory outside itself to maintain its existence … it is that which rises and falls in a whimsical tide and precariously fluctuates with surrounding events. The latter is enduring and sufficient unto itself — while the former is akin to the run-away horse that has kidnapped its rider as a hostage.

    Simply contemplating this vital distinction … this subtle nuance is, itself, enlightening beyond description.



    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog