Thoughts on Morality

The guiding tenets of my moral beliefs to a large extent can be distilled into two well known ideas. The first is the golden rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated. The next is, when considering an action, even if insignificant, ponder if the world would be better or worse if everyone did this regularly.

One important aspect of this is that if you wish to be treated with respect and kindness, and to be helped when in need, you should treat others in the same way. Part of this can be extended to tolerance. It is all too easy to deride others for mistakes, but all humans make mistakes, including ourselves. We have a ready excuse as to why our mistake was understandable or forgivable, and crave understanding and leniency. This comes from a knowledge of our personal circumstances, everything that has made us believe, think, and act the way we do, the misconceptions we may hold. Strive to see that others similarly have circumstances that have caused them to act or think the way they do, and that if we want leniency, we must extend it to others. But when our flaws are pointed out it is important to consider them, and work to change them for the better, if we wish to see the same in others.

We would like others to listen to our opinions without automatically declaring them false because they conflict with others’ already held perceptions. So why are we so eager to dismiss other’s beliefs? Personal beliefs are just that- personal. They are affected by the myriad circumstances in which we grew up. We must follow our own creed and let others follow theirs, as long as they do not harm others. They will have to answer to the universe in their own way, and we in ours.

If we want people to help us when we are in need, we must go out of our way to help others. If we do not want others to take advantage of us when we are weak, we must help others in the same situation. Always remember that if you try to use others to make the world better for yourself, the mass of humanity sinks under the weight of your ego. If we all work together to make the world a better place, however, we all rise to new heights and everyone benefits in ways that were unimaginable before.

Obviously we should not take advantage of others if we do not wish to be taken advantage of. But in cases that may seem insignificant on a personal level, it is easy to say “I am not hurting anyone.” In this case, the second tenet reveals its value. The first is a rule that is important for individual interactions and group interactions of a relatively small scale. The second is a tenet vital to the existence of large societies. Should I throw that plastic bottle in the trash instead of the recycling? It is only one bottle and there is only a small probability it will be released into the environment on its way to the landfill. But multiply the problem by the 25 times you do it a year and the 7 billion people in the world, and it becomes a problem. If we choose these actions, we either neglect to care for the world that sustains us or believe that we are entitled to take the easy route and it is the rest of the world’s job to recycle or refrain from the use of plastic. This can be applied to shoplifting, fudging numbers on work reports or data, or an innumerable number of societal problems as well as numerous environmental problems such as the depletion of tropical rainforests for wood, palm oil, or subpar farmland. This practice saves us from problems that only become an issue in the aggregate of a worldwide human society.

These tenets are based upon the belief that man is a social animal. It is based on the belief that we should all act this way for the betterment of mankind. We can only act in good faith that others will do the same. I cannot claim to be perfect on these issues, I am human and mess up more often than not. But I like to believe that as I grow older and wiser, I consistently move in the right direction and become a better human and a better citizen of planet earth. I hope we can all do the same together.

(Picture found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/locosteve/5546134597/in/pool-creative_commons-_free_pictures/)

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