This morning I woke to the news of the government drafting legislation for three person IVF treatment to allow parents to protect babies from defective mitochondria which leaves them ‘starved of energy, resulting in muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases’ (BBC News page) by having the DNA from a third party used in the creation of their child. This opens up a vast set of issues on the very nature of life, family, society, etc. After this item there followed the news that surgeons’ individual performance is to be publicised to enable to help patients make informed decisions. This too holds so many much much larger questions about our lack of trust, social contracts, etc. These items come on the back of the issue of gay marriage, banking reform, energy sources, etc.
The Western world is in turmoil. There is no denying that. Change is in the air and most, if not all, people are feeling unsettled, chaotic and scared. The world is always changing; look at Heraclitus (Greek philosopher of 5th century B.C.) who is famous for saying
You never step into the same river twice.
What is scary for me (trying as best as I can to take an overview) is how lost we all are. I use the word ‘lost’ deliberately and I use the word ‘we’ with equal seriousness.
We are lost because we have no direction or rather we have no shared direction when it comes to ethcial discussions. There is an ever-increasing number of options and subjective choice as to which direction we should take that no one view can be held as better or worse than another. This is the fruit of individualism and subjectivity. I have been saying it for so long I’m tired of hearing myself say it. We have got a culture where “What I think and feel is right because it’s what I think and feel.” This unquestioning subjectivity of reality leads to a break down of society. Descartes has a lot to answer for!
We are lost in an ethical abyss with no firm footing or basis by which to discern right from wrong. Our laws and government no longer know how to speak ‘truth’ because ‘truth’ is not shared or agreed upon. The legal system now just protects us individuals from hurting other individuals by our holy, sanctified individuval lives. And we are surprised by the rise in loneliness, depression, a deep seated experience of isolation from fellow human beings, relationships hard to find and sustain and the language we use is so fluid that any meaningful expression is lost and misunderstood. At the heart of this is the current discussion on marriage. This is the sole, most important issue which is unlocking all other issues.
I am seeing this ethical debate on the nature of marriage (both the contents and the way in which it was undertaken) as a piece of dynamite ready to explode the constructs already teetering on their foundations. I say this because it cuts to the core of our discomfort and uncertainties; identity, society, trust, relationships, love, truth, the place and reality of un-tangible concepts within our society, etc. Again (and I really mean AGAIN!) I am not putting a value on either view of the outcome of this particular debate. I do not want to add to that discussion. I am trying to see the underlying issues at work and discuss those.
All around us is wobbling. We are unsure that what we’ve built our lives on is a firm and secure as we first hoped. Then this piece of dynamite is placed along side the cracks already forming and it is blown.
It feels that, in search of freedom we have become enslaved to our own feelings, emotions. Beliefs are based on hunches and gut reactions rather than wisdom.
Wisdom. Where are you, Wisdom? We have built our replica of you and parade it about while you silently watch on from the wings. We make this pathetic imitation dance and move and are deceived into think that it lives but it is but a puppet representation of your life and being.
When will we learn that this individualism and self-seeking, self-constructed framework of society is a sham of the most dangerous and destructive kind?
We have no ethics because we no longer understand the most important fact that lies, unrecognised at the core of our existence: human beings are imperfect, unknowing, ignorant fools. Each and every one of us is skewed in our perception of reality. We are drunk, hazed over with our inner selfishness. Even me. I am guilty of that most hideous of crimes: self-delusion, pride even in my own self-disgust. I am trapped and imprisoned in my own ego. My ego lashes out defensively and subtly twists all I see and do into ‘right-ness’, justifications of thoughts, ideas, policies. My ego distorts, degrades and destroys reality for self-protection. That is why I use ‘we’! I stand in the dock and am guilty!
We. We are lost. Lost in this pathetic state of life. Once the explosion happens and all comes down, as it will and should what will we do?
Firstly, I suggest, acknowledge our weakness, our shortcomings, the ethical mess we are in. To admit the devastation around us. To pick up the pieces of rubble and weep over the brokenness. To silence all voices and to stand in the reverential place of pure and painful humility.
After this we must sing sombre songs of lament. In this place of seeing ourselves as the pathetic creatures we can become we must sing a song of sorrow from our hearts with the tears of truth streaming down our faces. Allow the melody of a minor key to stir us into deeper reality and begin to experience a healing. This healing cannot come from any human source for all those fountains are corrupted and diseased; what comes from them is the fruit of a poisoned tree. No. This healing is found by those who enter this place of reality with humility and fear, reverence and care. Its source is a fearful and un-nameable place which we all would rather forget and push to one side but its reality is sure. We have buried this source with our humanistic, concrete-like concepts of progress and intellect. It is been stopped by force by us. Silently and subtly we have continued to block it up with small incremental steps and we did it all in the name of ‘liberty’ and happiness. Now all our constructs are rubble, the plug has been freed and the pure waters can be drunk from again.
Finally, I want to shout, in the silence, after the songs of lament, confession, sorrow and disgust there is a space to, together, open our eyes. In the cracks of the devastation where the water of healing, life and hope trickles fresh, new things are growing. We recognise them but have lost their names. None of us will dare move in case we trample on the young buds sprouting. The purer ones of us, the ones well versed in lamentation and self-surrender, they will move first and welcome the new arrivals on our landscape. They will smile and will speak first, naming them afresh and reminding us of their beauty and truth. We will hear it; some recalling quicker than others and we will finally share the story of reality.
At the moment this is not and never can be possible in the way we are progressing now. We are blind to the truth and we are doomed together.