culture ethics general

better or worse

As experience and age increases, you can look back on your life and see change. Sometimes, there can be significant difference between the kind of person we are now and the person we used to be.

On the one hand, it may be that we are better, that we have learned from mistakes, that we have made progress. On the other hand, of course, it may be that we are worse, that we have forgotten important principles, that we have regressed.

What we think about our progress or regress may be different from the reality. For example, it is far more comfortable to think of ourselves as having made progress; to look back in triumphal dis-association, saying, “I am glad I’m not that person anymore.” By contrast, it is deeply disturbing to say to oneself, “What kind of person have I become? How did I get here?”

It seems to me that in order for myself to make a more accurate assessment of my progress or regress, I need the input of others. Indeed, if I have other people whom I can increasingly ask for and accept their perception of my well-being, it is a sign of progress. If, however, I increasingly fear or despise the views of more and more people, assuming my own perception to be more true than theirs, I would take that to be a sign of regress.

The following questions emerge from this reflection:

Am I growing closer or further away from people who can help me become a better person?

Am I sensing an increase or decrease in partnership, community and relationship with others in general?

Am I growing in my ability to accept people I disagree with, or is my frustration with them burning hotter and hotter?

What habits can I build into my life to help me grow towards others, rather than away from them?

christianity ethics philosophy theology

father god

All speech about God uses metaphor (so does all speech about the universe, but that’s another post).  One basic idea is that God is like a Father.

Leaving to one side the less-noted ‘problem’ of good, the more-noted ‘problem’ of evil (among other things) would suggest that God is one abusive, tyrant, dictator of a Father.

I don’t mean to skip cheerfully over real pain of real people in really tough situations, but I’ve learned at least this from my less-than-two-years of fatherhood.  Pain and mistakes teach us and grow us (if we let them).  This is basic stuff, and I claim no profundity.

I want Thomas to grow up and learn.  One basic example would be that he has to fall over and over again to learn to walk.  Giraffe mothers (apparently) stand over their young ones and sweep their little feet out from underneath them – so that they learn to get up quickly and can better escape attacking predators. Maybe I’m not as loving as a mum giraffe, coz I don’t like letting Thomas fall.  I was nervous as heck-fire watching him (and encouraging him by counting each step) walk up our concrete steps the other day.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that allowing bumps/scrapes/falls/tears/sores/pain/etc. is not at all antithetical to being a good father.  In fact, I’m fairly convinced that a father who protects his child from any/all pain is probably an insecure, fearful, selfish father.  I take no delight in the pain Thomas goes through in any specific case, and I am persuaded to think that God takes no delight in our pain either.  But what I do know is that his life (and ours) is bigger than and will benefit from those brief moments of pain which I choose (and God chooses) to allow.

In this context of real, down-to-earth life – dad-hood and son-hood kind of life – the main point of the philosophical ‘problem’ of evil (the pastoral problem of evil is quite another thing) just feels like impatient thinking to me.  You can look at the world (for example, the evolutionary process) and ‘see’ a lot of death, pain and apparent pointlessness.  The author of Ecclesiastes and not a few psalmists certainly did.  But you can also ‘see’ life emerging out of that death, maturity out of the pain, an appearing plan out of the apparent pointlessness.