Monday, May 19, 2008

Implementing the golden rule

It is one of humankind's most noble intentions. It is a matter of personal belief perhaps, but I believe it is in fact nothing less than practical advice, the only advice that can be followed without eventually needing an army to back you up. Yet, despite being one of the most widely praised bits of wisdom and being rediscovered and restated in many cultures and religions, the Golden Rule has not been implemented as an enduring social norm. I just checked the newspapers this morning and its status as law or practice seem to be confined to two circumstances:
  1. As law, it only exists in the form of specifications for redress when the principle itself has been violated.
  2. As practice, its implementation is only in the realm of personal choice...pay-it-forward seems to evaporate in the wilting entropy of "taking care of number one".

Even in the personal arena, it is mysteriously difficult to abide by the rule. It really is a rule we teach children because one has to be very much a grownup to follow it when they have acquired a life and the basket of perceived self interests. The "but"s abound. I offer you a lower threshold of difficulty, a less steep path, toward the noble intention:

Listen to others using the same openness and attention with which you would like to be heard.

Seriously. What if, for instance, you were able to listen to Rush Limbaugh so carefully that you actually figured out what the origins of his confused pain and neediness were? That example is a tough case but it will make the daily confrontations of your life seem a bit more tame perhaps.

2 comments:

anna Van Z said...

I would definitely have difficulty listening to Rush L. for any length of time, let alone pondering the origins of his dementia.
However, in most things I do strive for and ususally achieve, treating others as I would want to be treated. For me, that most definitely includes animals - so many only include their own species in the extension of basic decency and consideration, which is pretty limited, actually.

GreenSmile said...

That is interesting Anna. I agree that inter-species the rule still applies. And not that I am mushy over pets but I have the sense that most animals know when they are being watched and return attention for attention given.

The Rush thing was extreme but the point is we should all realize we have limits and a long ways to go before complacency would be appropriate.