Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The 6.5 Commandments

I know that officially there are ten commandants, but I'm only going to discuss 6.5 of them. See, three and a half commandments all presume a firm belief in a Judeo-Christian concept of God. I'm an agnostic so I'm can ignore them, at least for the purposes of this article.

I bear no ill-will to believers and hope they feel the same about me. I hope we both are thankful to be living in a country designed to accommodate us both, in theory, if not always in fact. While I'm spreading the sunshine let me also go on record and state that I also don't care if you're an atheist or a believer in a spiritual tradition that falls outside of the Judeo-Christian one assuming you're prepared to peacefully share the playground with all the other kids and not bully, or behead, anyone that disagrees with you.

Why does an agnostic want to discuss 6.5 commandments? In a polarized nation egged on by a hyperventilating media, why wouldn't I want to discuss behaviors most of us more or less agree on?

To answer the obvious question, the half of a commandment is the one that tells us to observe the Sabbath. I don't believe in blue laws. Nor do I expect a world that is evolving a 24/7 culture to be able to agree with everyone taking the same day off.

However, I highly recommend observing a personal sabbath, even a half sabbath (halfasab?). I know that hard-charging 24/7 types will find this a ridiculous notion. Keep moving, rust never sleeps. OK, but trust me on this dude, take a break once in awhile. If you don't, sooner or later some part of you is going to turn on the rest of you, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Or one of these days when you show up at the playground, you may find a bunch of other kids are hiding in the bushes with a stockpile of sticks and stones.

Next, we're told to honor our mom's and dads. It takes an unusually long time for us to mature in comparison to most species and to be able to function on our own. Common sense, if not love, suggests we at least humor our parental units.

Not all parents are worth honoring, but most are, in spite of the fact they're not perfect like us. However, parents also need to honor their kids. This is accomplished simply by choosing to do your job. It's not an opinion it's a scientifically proven fact -- a kid that has an involved mom and dad is more likely to succeed, on every level. And by the way, kids need parents, not grown up friends.

Don't kill anybody. For most of us, this is an easy one. Even when killing is sanctioned by the traditional justifications  -- self-defense, war, and capital punishment -- most of us are reluctant to kill another human being, even when it's morally or logically justifiable. Good. If this notion puzzles you, seek help.

Don't commit adultery. To me, and I suspect I'm not alone in this, adultery is having some form of sex (all forms of sex are sex, even the one Bill Clinton pretends isn't) with someone other than your spouse. Unless you both genuinely agree to an open relationship, and I suspect this is rare (and often sad), it's wrong. You can justify it any way you want, you're betraying the most intimate relationship possible between two human beings.

Considering the kerfuffle concerning gay marriage (I love alliteration, sorry if you find it annoying) I guess I should mention it. I don't think the Supremes had any business ruling on this issue, or on abortion for that matter.

I think abortion should be legal, but only during the first trimester. I could care less what consenting adults are doing behind (hopefully) closed doors. However, I'm a firm believer that individual states should decide on playground rules not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, as the Constitution specifically mentions.

Don't steal. I didn't realize, until I did a bit of research, that many Jewish scholars interpret this to mean don't kidnap. Most of us view it as a proscription against taking someone's stuff. This one's about as easy to agree with as don't kill anybody.

Interesting that radical, bloodthirsty revolutionary types with wildly divergent goals regard murder and kidnapping as essential components of a terrorist's toolbox.

Don't lie. Well, that's how it was taught to me, deliberately over-simplified by various nuns belonging to the order of the Sisters of Charity because I was just a kid. I'm now familiar with the meaning of don't bear false witness. It's wrong to lie if you do so out of a desire to deliberately alter or hide facts that need to be revealed if justice is to be served.

Lies of social lubrication are not only not wrong, it's easy to make a case for their vital role in society and relationships. No, as a matter of fact, those pants make your butt look awesome. We must draw fine lines. Navigating through shades of gray is often difficult, but Reality is usually presented to us in shades of gray -- rarely in crisp, clean black and white.

Finally, don't covet ________. Coveting ain't the problem, it's what you do next. You may not agree with my interpretation of do not covet but to me, since it's impossible to not have desires and since trying to suppress them only makes them stronger, what you do next is what's important.

What I try to do is note how quickly I respond in a primitive, me-wanta, chest-thumping sort of way and then remind myself that civilized behavior is indeed a very thin veneer. I don't try to suppress my desires, but I do try to take the high road and not act on the inappropriate ones.

The gentlereader scratches his/her/hir(?) head. How do know what the high road is, as pertaining to this or any other commandment? I maintain that 99.9% of the time you'll know, assuming you can be honest with yourself. As for that .1% of the time, all you can do is the best you can do.

Have an OK day.

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©2015 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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