Thoughts On Changing The World
Original written Dec. 2007 for Multiply Blog- Response to a comment- edit 2014
“…the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false.”
The problem I see in the statement is that, presumptuous, or not, lassitude in trying to create a just world by claiming we can do nothing, anyway, so leave it to God, or natural law, or whatever outside ourselves, is a kind of moral dereliction of duty. To quote a seventies maxim, “if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
The basic problem with concepts such as Justice, Love, Mercy, and Truth is in the way they are defined. What is considered Just changes according to context and culture. In Iran, the beating and hanging of those suspected of homosexuality is Justice. The fact that it is Justice is documented (so it is claimed) by the Koran and the resulting commentaries upon it. This is equally true of the Hebrew Testament and their early commentaries. It seems a fairly recent phenomenon, if I may use that term, that this is being challenged and re-interpreted in any major way. Each interpretation comes with its own rationalizations, often contradictory to each other (which is equally true of the original source material).
I know that Plato-ism holds that the pure forms of concepts exist in some abstract realm. There is pure Justice, Pure Mercy, Pure Evil, etc., of which our human understandings are only very pale, if not counterfeits, copies. I tend to believe, which I’m sure you realize, that these ideas have no reality beyond our definition of them. As with all theories (and by theories, I mean, here, those things without practical evidence as support), there is no provable, or improvable, evidence of their truth or error. What we have, instead, is rationalizations.
I am not sure it really matters, in this instance, which theory is truth or error. Perhaps they are both true, perhaps they are both erroneous. More likely (so I like to think) they are both truth and error and a closer truth would be a synthesis of both. However, that, too, is theoretical.
What does matter is that, in either/all case(s), we are still obliged, for the sake of our own happiness, individual and collective, to strive for clearer understandings, more precise definitions of whatever concept with which we are concerned. We cannot just leave it to God to endow us miraculously with the knowledge. As the Bible would have it, He was not too keen about our eating of the Tree of Knowledge (of good and evil) in the first place.
I am not concerned with answering past centuries of injustice; I am concerned with leaving the world more Just for the future. I do not blame God for those past centuries. I blame Man. If we can use the past objectively, we can (and do) learn something more of our use and misuse of the great concepts and re-define more accurately our understanding of them.
I am not fool enough to think I can change the World. What I can strive to change, however, is the tiny space that is my world. Life is a pool game and my actions billiard balls. The correct force and direction applied to my ball will change the table to the most advantageous state for my partner’s next progression. Whatever else, knowledge of the game, a beneficent sponsor, that accompanies my play, it is still my performance that is central to my game