It’s not every day that I throw a new post into the “Life Philosophies” category of this blog (OK, I know it’s rare that I post anything on this blog anymore), but I wanted to share a quick tidbit I’ve been working on for a while now…
It is common to hear rhetoric in church about “the world”. It’s usually about how the “world is going downhill”, which is often followed up with stories about the erosion of morality as a sad sign of growing godlessness among the nation/world at large. I don’t fault my fellow churchgoers for going down this rhetorical path. It’s a well beaten one and trodden often by church leadership as well. (So goes the Mormon echo chamber.)
I think it’s true that some very ugly behaviors, previously accepted as wrong by society, have become more acceptable over time. So – it’s not an error of fact to say the “world” at large is headed in a more morally relativistic, morally lackadaisical direction.
However, I started to be bothered by this “world going to hell in a handbasket” ideology because I felt it had reach a sad level of cliché. It seems like, more and more, it becomes the launching point into which we delve into any topic.
“This world is so evil, let’s talk about being a good father.”
“Well, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, so let’s talk about food storage.”
“The world is such a terrible place to live, let’s talk about the NFL draft and just say we had a lesson.”
No – there’s more to this “world is a terrible place” stuff. I mean, I live in the world for most of 7 days a week, and I have to say it’s not that terrible of a place – at least in my local sphere of interaction. I see great people at work, great people at home, and great people at church who are – for the most part – trying to do what’s right for their careers, families, and themselves. I doubt there are many who get up in the morning, put their pants on one leg at a time, and head out the door with a list of traditional moral codes to break that day.
So, dissecting this a little more I came to the conclusion that it’s no so much about the “world” as a whole. After all, the world is just made up of a bunch of individuals, right? So why are we – individually – making some common decisions that, when examined together, can be judged as “bad” for society at large?
After giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that this closely relates to another of my basic life philosophies – that we all do what we want. As an extension of that thought, please consider the following: If I want it, it can’t be wrong – or bad – because I want it, and I should have everything I want. How can something I want be bad for me? Because I want it, I should have it.
That, to me, is the driving force – the gasoline on the fire – behind the moral degradation we see in the world at large. As individuals let slip their individual moral code, it breaks down the last barriers between the internal want for – whatever – and frees the individual to wholeheartedly seek that which they want.
Since I believe that there are moral rights and wrong (or more accurately, I think I believe in moral ‘betters’ and ‘worsers’), my conclusion is that the “world is going downhill” philosophy is an error of perspective, not an error of judgement. If you, instead, consider the “because I want it, I should have it” mentality – it becomes much more self-indicting. It puts the onus back on one’s self to reconsider their value judgments – and reconsider whether the pursuit of their wants is contributing to what is good and right in “the world” or to what is wrong with “the world.” Asking this question invites a person to apply their own moral code to themselves rather than to the nameless, faceless “world” of others.
We can even extend it to explain human behavior outside of moral jugement. This philosophy is even more evident in financial transactions. We have become a society of greed (hello financial collapse of 2008!) and consumerism because of this same drive toward want.
In a smaller example, if I really want the iPad 3 to the point that I will stop at nothing to get it. I may go to harmful lengths to get it. To take it to the superlative, let’s say I sell a kidney to procure the funding to get it. Now, there’s nothing morally wrong with selling a kidney (as far as the moral codes with which I am familiar), but I think we can all agree this would be a terrible decision. But I want it that badly, and that’s the issue here. The extent you will go to satisfy a want – can cause problems for both you and the ones you love.