14 December 2006

The questionable state of The Golden Rule.

Although not always consciously, I have laboured much under this bloody thing as a basic tenet of living. Forever in fact. More and more in the last year or so though, i've been feeling like it's rubbish, since I don't treat myself half as well as I treat most people, and often I find myself spending alot of time treating many people like gold who, in my world anyhow, just aren't worth it.
Today i was informed that the original version of this rule, before the good Jesus changed it, was in fact this: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor" - [Hillel to a heathen (Judaism)]

Think about it for a second. It's not the same thing at all. Where's the senseless sacrifice, the martyrdom, the servility?

Googling further into the matter, I discovered these examples from other eastern religions:

"Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." (Udana-Varga 5:18) (Buddhism)

"This is the sum of the Dharma: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you" (Mahabharata 5:15:17) (Hinduism)

And this from Wikipedia: Older Eastern culture formulations (Confucius, Hillel) tend to be passive or negative, while in Western culture, it is most commonly rendered as an active or proscriptive form, beginning with "do", "love" or "treat."

And while it is a rare moment that i advocate the passive over the active, or the negative over the positive for that matter, I wonder in this case. I really really wonder.


the Doctor said...

you have given the doctor much to ponder... I will ponder.

steflenk said...

i Love it, the more i think about it.
This idea of "doing unto others" implies that what I do in my attempt to be kind/loving, etc. will not only be reciprocated, but will be understood as a loving gesture, etc. This is rarely, if ever the case.
We all do different things for each other, according to our abilities/concepts of good, etc. I don't think one can put a gauge on one's ability/success in doing good, relative to others (much as even I may try to.)
Different people need "good to be done to them" in different ways. Judging your actions as "good" because they work for you is rubbish, pure and simple. This has been proven to me often, when my attempts to be "good" (or honest, which I find often goes hand in hand with my concept of "good"), have led to a misunderstanding of greater truths, or unnecessary wrong-doing to other people. There is always a small picture and a big picture in these circumstances, I think, and the important assessment before acting is deciding which one is the pertinent one.

The real good is stepping away from yourself completely when trying to figure out "good"; well, with regards to other people. Use yourself as the barometer when you're doing something for yourself, and the person in question when you are doing something good for them.

That said, it seems to me that it is helpful to understand the consequences of doing something wrong when imagining that same thing done to yourself. Hurt for some reason is a more exacting science; it's easier to gauge the effects of negative things on others when one imagines them being done to oneself. I'm not sure why it works this way, but not the other; but I think that's true.


In the instance of philosophical meandering when it comes to religion, the strongest of impetii (impetii?) towards Faith of any sort, I think that using a more negative tenet can in fact be more efficicacious.

And keep one's own expectations down.
Or so I would hope.

Having said that, I am in the midst of a Christmas gift making FRENZY, and I hope (take heed, ALL OF YOU) to be compensated with a Motorcycle.

Just saying.

And see? "Do unto others..." will not work well in this instance! Getting me a motorcycle would be a Good Good thing! Which of you others can truly say you would feel well done-by if I bought you a motorcycle instead of giving you some strange but personally crafted thing?!?

the Doctor said...

As the Doctor, I try and just feel what the moment is dictating rather than having any preconcieved notions of what is good or not. Although I like what you said about imagining the action done to you... as a gauge of it's possibly effect on others... but this has often not worked for me either.
I do find that just stepping back and listening moment to moment has been the most helpful to me is navigating a course through what may be helpful to others; I like to think that some special energy is coming from the situation that will dictate my actions if I can only be quiet enough to hear it...
But if you, or I, are honestly trying our best to be 'good', then is that really so bad? I mean... we are actually, honestly, trying our best... and life is not easy.

All this being said... I discovered I have been banished to the second level of hell by the Dante's Inferno online test.... the punishement set aside for those guilty of lust... I will spend eternity with the like of Helen of Troy and Cleopatra... not bad I think...

You try... http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv

steflenk said...

well, good doctor, tho' we've talked a blue streak about this, i cannot bear to read anything on this blog without commenting back in writing. I will try to be concise; (ha. try)
i think a few things are true, for me at least, with my questionable experience. I know many people who have "tried their best", but "their best" truly was only that. that is, THEIR best. As in, what was/is best for themselves. I think this behaviour is Unacceptable. There are many ways to make what's best for ones self justifiable, I used to be an expert at this kind of thinking. I was a master justifier. Still, even if you've done it yourself, you can't always see it in other people, especially if you are a gullible sort (as i most certainly am).
These days, unfortunately, I have moved from navel-gazing justifier to the opposite extreme, where my "best", often preceded by some thought of karma for my prior life, or the golden rule, often makes a modest exit for better times, and makes me utterly unable to take care of myself.

I think this:
Life is not easy.
Doing one's best is admirable.
Doing one's best for all involved, to the best of one's perceptive ability, is ideal.
This involves having faith that there are other circumstances at hand in any one situation, Circumstances that you will only be aware of if you watch and listen carefully. They are other peoples' circumstances, and they will never be as loud as those resounding through your own brain.
But they are important.
When all the "what's the best course of action" thinking gets caught in the cyclical pattern of your own circumstances, thinking about someone else's for a minute can actually be a relief. And a helpful determinant.

Of course, would that I listened to my own advice

And, last but not least.
SEVENTH LEVEL. I just did the test. i shit you not.
You shouldn't even be Associating with me, unless it is to chuckle from above. Second Level of Hell...HA. I bet they serve ice cream there. I'll be writhing FAR below your moral anxieties, that is a promise.