Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Being good when times are bad

Last night, I attended a lecture by Professor Anthony Long. The topic, Being Good When Times Are Bad: Stoic Questions and Responses, asks crucial questions about our responsibilities as human beings.

Who are we? Indeed, who are we, and what is our profession? We are human beings, our profession is to be human. As such, we are part of a larger whole - a community. Marcus Aurelius said "If intelligence is something we share, so too is the rationality that makes us rational beings. If so, we also share the reasoning that tells us what should or should not be done. If so, we also share law. If so, we are citizens. If so, we participate in a commonwealth. If so, the entire world is a kind of community."

Apparently, the Bush Administration forgets that we participate in a commonwealth. In Stoic thought, what matters most is HOW WE TREAT OTHERS, not how they treat us. What needs to temper our actions is Compassion. A compassionate heart will respond peacefully even when hatred would be an easier option. And that is what the Bush Administration lacks: a compassionate heart.

Stoic thought contends that as human beings we need the idea of a higher being, lest we succumb to our own arrogance. And it contends that the idea of God is not the same as belief. Bush claims belief in God - that God talks to him. And in my own limited opinion, this strikes me as complete arrogance and utter disdain for the idea of a higher being. Who is Bush to have a direct pipeline to a God? He's nothing more than a hateful bigot who spreads fear; who lies when the truth would be easier. He fuels a climate of fear and he surrounds himself with like-minded people lacking in compassion. And so we have been brought to the edge of disaster.

Earl at The Peace Train posted this powerful video in response to a thread over there - and it needs to be seen.

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" moment. What, what, what have we accomplished?


robin andrea said...

You have that scary list in the previous post enumerating the this administration's contemptuous flaunting of laws and the Constitution. I think Bush's direct line of communication with God should be on the list. How can we have a president who believes such nonsense? Most people who say that God talks to them are put on medication and assisted so that they don't hurt other people or themselves. The man needs a strait jacket and a jail cell.

Traveling Man said...

To quote Aerosmith: "There's something right in the world today and everybody can see what's wrong...."

betmo said...

i agree with about 98% of what you said. i just don't agree with needing a higher power. we still come to a similar conclusion- more compassion and understanding of others- more tolerance. i am all with having differing points of view- it is what makes humans unique. i will never be able to reconcile with religions of any sort- which is not what your post is about- and i can't believe in something i don't believe to exist. but you do and many folks do. fine. we have to be able to strike a balance- and right now- the whole world is out of balance because of people like bush. perhaps sane folks will prevail- one can only hope.

pissed off patricia said...

Like betmo, the higher power doesn't click with me. Common sense steps up to fill that bill

Thorne said...

Very interesting... In AA we say "All I need to know is there's a Higher Power, and I ain't it". The concept of a HP that works for many is that of the "group conscience", (although I admit there are plenty "bible thumpers" in AA, too). This concept helps one remove oneself form the "ego" of self will, and puts one in a place of acting from/for the greater good. I'm a bit of an odd duck among both believers and non. I'm pagan (lower case "p" no religion here) NOT "Wiccan" (a pagan religion). If there is a "god" it's us. Kind of an ugly thought sometimes, I know; but there it is. I'm really a sort of Atheist pagan spiritualist. Some will think that an oxymoron, but that's okay. I don't believe in a god or goddess. I don't believe in a "guiding intelligence" of any sort. I think the world and people are just too fucked up for there to be any possibility of that. But I do believe in Quantum Theory and thinking, and that means that we create what we choose to perceive, (a fumbling understatement of QT. Sorry) So all those hypocritical christianists shall be burning in the hell of their own creation. (That gives me a giggle). As for me, I see "spirit" (energy) in everything. Everything. This allows (assists) me in feeling connected to the earth,plants, animals and YOU which helps me not fall into the very human trap of desiring or taking "power over" and encourages me to find my "power with" the earth and all my "kin"(humanity). The mythologies and Gods and Goddesses of the past become archetypes which allow me to connect to my "higher Self" on a more specialized and intimate basis, and are, by the power of my belief, made manifest.
Religion, with it's doctrines and dogma and politics is possibly the greatest single "evil" our world has ever suffered, whether it be christian, catholic, muslim, islam, (judiasm is the only one I can think of that hasn't caused great wars and persecution, but then, it has chosen the role of martyr)historical rome, sumerian...the list goes on. I can easily accept and not judge the atheist, the christian, the jew, the wiccan the pagan. For that matter the philosophy of existentialism and nihilism. These are (and should be) personal belief systems to enrich the lives of the individual.
"Love under Will. Love is the Law."

DivaJood said...

My own concept of a higher power has been revised in AA, actually. I've gone away from that old man with the long white beard and robes to Good Orderly Direction, the group conscience, and the realization that I cannot do this alone: this being a sober woman in AA. Not on my own will.

But had AA not had the words "god as we understand him", and had AA insisted everyone believe the same way, I would not be there. Yes, there are bible thumpers in AA, of course; and the "instantly spiritual" as in "I used to be an asshole, but now I'm perfect." I avoid them.

For me, my understanding of a God is personal and private. It is mine, not yours. I cannot, will not, expect you or anyone else to believe as I do. At the same time, I look at those who DO make those demands as dangerous people.

And it is those dangerous people who, wrapped in the guise of religious fervor, spew hatered. I respect those of you who don't believe in any form of a higher power; your actions are guided by compassion and a conscience. I do not respect the so-called Christians who bomb Abortion clinics; who clamor for the overturn of Roe v. Wade; who denied Terry Schaivo the right to die with dignity.

It's a huge subject. And remember, I am against theocracy. I am not against having a belief.