On My Ethics

My personal ethics are both simple to describe and also simple to apply. They are not laws or rules; they are principles and statements to guide me in my ethical decisions. My ethics are situational. They force me to consider each situation on its own merits. I recognize that rules and laws are imperfect distillations of principles, and may lead one to decisions which are possibly unethical for that specific situation. I use certain general statements about life as guides and reminders for good ethical decisions. My guiding principles and corollaries:

The Basics:

  • Do no harm.
    Insofar as humanly possible, do not harm other life or the environment. This is not always totally possible. Life does not present us with clear-cut cases very often. Many times the choice is between the slightly harmful and the very harmful. This means that one has to evaluate all actions carefully.
  • Love others; they are yourself.
    Love/care for/value others. They are a real extension of yourself. Their needs, seen correctly are an extension of your own. Their welfare is your welfare. We are all part of a whole. Any harm to one of us is harm to all.
  • Find the truth and follow it.
    Truth is worth searching for in all things. This implies continuing study and experiences. Once found, be guided by your truths, even when unpopular. This is part of being true to yourself. Most great truths were unrecognized or unpopular when first found. Truth is always expanding as society experiences new things. Truth will never conflict with the first two principles above.

The Corollaries:

  • Know yourself; Love yourself, Be true to yourself.
    In order to know what your needs and concerns are, you need to investigate and come to know the complexity that is you. You are good and valuable; you are lovable, no matter what you have as faults. You can only be yourself, not what others would want you to be instead. Being true to yourself will encourage others to be true to who they are.
  • You can only have as much regard for others as you have for yourself.
    We only know what we experience. If we cannot extend love to ourselves, we will hardly know how to extend love to others.
  • Life is learning and attempting.
    We all have the chance to learn lessons as each day passes. We will try to apply what we have learned. We are works in progress, and our attempts may not always be successful, especially when first attempts are made.
  • Life is good. The world is good.
    I believe in "original good". Everything that exists is good in an ultimate sense. Sometimes my limited understanding fails to immediately see the good in some people, places, and events. This is part of my human limitation.
  • Our feelings, thoughts, and desires can be trusted as guides to action, if considered in their totality.
    It is impossible to conceive of a good world without recognizing that our bodies, minds, and spirits are all sources of wisdom and guidance. We do not exist as some kind of cosmic error.
  • Our body, mind, and spirit are all valid expressions of the ultimate.
    Since the universal ultimate is indivisible, omnipresent, and the ultimate source of wisdom and goodness, we all participate in this universal oneness.
  • We are all part of the divine.
    As above, our very existence shares partially in the actions of the universal. Living is an action of the divine.
  • No one is perfect, nor should they be so.
    Since our existence is limited, so are our capabilities and understandings. This is as it should be, else we should all be gods.
  • Everyone is a work in progress.
    Life and learning are constantly changing influences on each one of us. We gradually become more efficient at the process of living. We should expect that each one of us is trying to improve, but is not yet finished.
  • There is no script for life to hold one another to.
    Since life is not a story written in detail before our birth, each one of us must discover each day how to live and interact. There is no perfect script to guide us; it is all improvisation!
  • History is a guide; so is the present and the future.
    The lessons and knowledge from history are a wonderful guide for action. Our laws, precepts, and the weight of human experience gives all of us a way to approach today. Today is potentially different from the past. It may require choices and actions never seen before. We need to be open to the continuing process. Ethics were not written and settled once and for all, never to be adapted to a changing reality. In the same way, we can look to a future which will probably modify, in ways yet unimaginable, our current views and practices.
  • Try to remain in harmony with your environment. When it is hurt, we are hurt.
    We must become more in tune with that part of our existence which is external to our skin. It also affects our life profoundly, both in its physical and human effects.
  • Today each one of us begins anew. No one is experienced in the present or in the future, regardless of age.
    An additional reminder that age is not a guarantee of wisdom, nor is a majority opinion so. A majority represents preference; it may or may not represent wisdom. youth can learn from age; age can learn from youth. Today's societal standards many times had their origin in the unpopular statements of our own youth.
  • There are many paths to the top of the mountain.
    There is no one way to live ethically, with those who do not practice in that same that way having therefore no wisdom or ethics. Peoples all over the world have developed and practiced ways of living together ethically. They have all embodied wisdom. They have all embodied mistakes and cruelty at times. It will help when we each recognize that true efforts to live ethically may produce different choices, but the fruits of these choices will benefit the particular society in question. Perhaps we can each learn something of value from another tradition. We do not have the exclusive knowledge of the only valid ethics in the world.