Tag Archives: Ethics

The Flapping Wings of my Personal Butterfly

My last post was inspired in part by the well-documented and somewhat self-evident Butterfly Effect.

Indeed, most of my thinking is in response, one way or another, to this concept. For when I reflect on my actions, I am concerned first and foremost with their effect. Underneath that focus there is an assumption of some level of  agent efficacy that may or may not exist.

The things we quibble and quarrel about, like Good and Evil, Accountability and Blame,  Morality and Righteousness, God and Country, are shallow and somewhat vacuous intellectual romps compared to the really hard and far more fundamental question of just how much a flapping butterfly wing matters.

On the one hand, proof of mattering is all around us.

That may not seem so obvious when we describe the Butterfly Effect as the flap of butterfly wings on one side of the  globe causing a Tsunami on the other side. It may even sound absurd. But it becomes less so when we call it the more technical sounding Chaos Theory and look at it instead as simply saying that a small change can have huge effects down the road.

And it becomes immediately personal when viewed in terms of us existing at all.

“Us” in the plural sense, certainly, when you realize how many extinctions have occurred, but here I am meaning “us” in the singular sense: you, me,  and other would-be agents of change.

For when I reflect on my own existence, I can’t help being awestruck at how amazing it is that I am here at all. My presence might not seem like a particularly grand effect when viewed by someone other than me, but from the biased perspective of JD Fox, it is an inconceivably huge effect

But  the other hand is present, too:

Effects can be easily wiped out. One vote makes a difference. But an opposite vote cancels it. The flapping of wings can have an effect. But  the flapping of other wings can negate it. I am here, but I could have easily never been.

Such things in no way disprove the butterfly effect, of course, since those negations are also reliant on the small changes of long ago and act instead as further proof.  But they humble me, as I not only look at myself, but I look at the systems and processes involved.

The further out we move our lens, the more the effects, however huge,  get negated.  Trump’s insane tantrum-tweets, Kim Jong-un’s childish missile-waving, and all the other imbecilic, get-out-of-my-sandbox acts that spin us into hysterics are to the universe like a drop of water clinging to the edge of a pail.

That’s been left out in the hot sun.

Random Thoughts on Randomness – Part 1

“The most beautiful order is a pile of things poured out at random”
–Heraclitus
(Appropriated from Professor Metcalf’s Facebook Page)

Random Thought being a redundant phrase, of course, since all thoughts are necessarily random. For if they weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to think what you think you think.

But before I self-involvedly put out there my thoughts about that, I thought I might self-indulgently talk about this quintessential quandary:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now, we can take a look at a question like that and try to answer it as one or the other. Or declare it a circular reference without a determinate answer. Or push the answer back before  chickens or eggs onto other questions that would have to be answered first. Or we could just say “God only knows,” and mean it either literally or snarkily.

We could have debates, hold prayer meetings, and take to twitter with our views, being champions of this or that or Him.  Maybe make some Pro-Egg flyers or Believe in the Chicken posters. It would be kind of cool to see candidates trying to appease both sides, or The Trump signing an executive order declaring both eggs and chicken are fried, so there!

Yet, any such factious (or fractious) thinking would already be moving away from the most important, the most philosophically interesting, thing: The question itself.

For answers are never that interesting. They are boring in fact. And don’t even exist, for that matter, unless maybe you’re a blind faithy, fox-news-only kind of person. But then again, if that is so, you don’t so much have an answer as have simply delegated the question to someone above you (literally and snarkily).

So let’s move back from the egg-chicken details and think about what kind of question it is. Although it is phrased as “which came first”, I hear it first and foremost as a causal question rather than a temporal one. Who made who would probably be a more accurate representation of it, but so goes the idiom.

In causality questions, what’s at stake? Why does it matter? That is, why does it matter to us? Well, for starters, the stakes are a lot higher than chickens or eggs. When we assign causality, aren’t we really assigning independence to one thing and dependence to the other?

Is the chicken dependent on the egg  or is it the other way around? Independence and dependence both shade Will. I will leave out Free from that Will for now, as that four-letter word typically adds a whole level of nonsense to these kind of discussions. Right now we can think of Will as just like it sounds: the ability to make things happen, put things into motion.

By the question, are we assigning Will to one thing, and mere obedience to the other? Is hatching the willful act and the chicken coming out just obeying what was set in motion? Or is the laying where the will resides and the egg just following orders.

We see that the chicken and egg question really is about that common but oh so vacuous term freewill.

You might argue that eggs and chickens don’t have will, or that they might have will but not freewill and/or hatching and laying are instinctual not intentional or something else in a similar putting-our-bag-of-bones into some sort of privileged position where we act and do things consciously (yet another, like freewill, somewhat vacuous and frequently unhelpful term).

But such arguments take swipe at the wrong thing. The right thing is our very conception of action and reaction, of which the chicken and egg are mere props for our thinking. But if chicken and egg are too low on the food chain for consideration, we can simply replace them with Mother and Child. Or even better, how about God and humankind? Or physics and humankind?

For that’s really to where we want to roll back, isn’t it? What, if anything, came before God? What, if anything, came before the Big Bang? Like with the original chicken and egg question, the answer itself isn’t as important as what’s at stake.

And that stake of course is the meaning of life: The mattering of it all, or of any of it. We think, perhaps, that if we push things back to some assumed unmoved mover or uncaused cause we can then bring such duly clarified meaning forward. The meaning, however, hardly needs to make such a journey. Indeed, trying to do so would be a fool’s errand.

Instead, the meaning of our lives derives neither from the divine nor natural order, but in the inherent randomness each of us possesses at any given moment.

—–

Other possible Parts as I work through my thoughts on this:

Spinoza’s God and the Necessitarianism Obstacle

Reconceptualizing Randomness

Ball in Tube Analogy

Molecule of Water in Heated Pot Analogy

Abolishing Absolutes and other Phantasms

Limited Randomness: As Free as Will ever gets

Finding Our Pulse

kind

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.

Mark Combs, a friend of mine from way back, posted the above Voltaire quote.

I like the line quite a bit, even though I consider words like “guilty” and “good” to be counterproductive and ultimately vacuous, as are their antonyms, innocent and evil. The problem with such words is that they can too easily draw people into a cycle of focusing on assignation rather than pushing them forward into personal action.

And action, really, is at the heart of Voltaire’s words. A call to action.

A call to the realization that not taking action is an action in and of itself. A realization that there is no middle ground. A realization that you have a choice to act and that “if you choose not to decide / you still have made a choice.

With the Orlando massacre, there are analyses of cause by both professional and armchair intellectuals.  There are conversations about prevention ranging from passing stricter gun laws to saying everyone in the nightclub should have been armed.

But I want to approach it a wholly different way. Approach it at the individual level; at the level I go to on a daily basis.

What part did you play in the massacre? We all should ask ourselves this question, and ask it often.

And you did play a part. Of course you did. Remember: there is no middle ground.  So, phrased another way, did you play the part of someone trying to make things better for all?

Passing bathroom bills and engaging in other forms of hate speech is the antithesis of better. And doing nothing amounts to the same.

When I hear about violence, I tell my husband how much I love him. When I hear about animal abuse, I hold my critters close. When I hear about child abuse, I think of all the kids I work with and how much I want to protect them.

And then I expand that circle: say hi to a neighbor, pet a stray animal, think of another way I can help kids.

So phrased yet another way, at this precise moment, with your finite life running out, what “good” do you have left to do.

And what are you waiting for?

Say (No) Cheese

I thought “giving up” cheese would be difficult.

Although it would be exaggeration to say I used to put cheese on everything, I certainly increased it where I could, such as: extra cheese on pizza, large dollops atop sauce-covered spaghetti, and gobs of shredded brimming over taco shell edges.

When I worked at McDonald’s (yeah, I worked there, three different ones actually, but always back in the grill…) years ago, I would add extra cheese when I made my lunch break sandwiches.

Give me a plate of crackers and cheese at a party and I’d be happier than if the cutest boy there asked me to dance. Well, that is likewise hyperbole, but after dancing I’d return to the cheese for sure. If the cute boy asked me politely, though, I just might share.

The point is, “giving up” things is supposed to be hard. Right? We give up smoking for our lungs, give up foods we love to lower our cholesterol, and give up alcohol so maybe next year at the Christmas party we don’t tell our boss “And another thing…”

We mention “giving up” things like we are an ascetic getting ready for a vision quest and the listeners around us should be simultaneously awed and filled with sympathy.

Yet “giving up” is an anemic approach to anything. It’s a half-assed, half-hearted, bleat of resignation.

Up neuters the action verb give, rendering it static: giving up smoking is NOT smoking, giving up drinking is NOT drinking, and so on. There is no action implicit in “Not”. Instead, as used here, it is the negation of action.

Since we are agents in the world, actors acting in the world, we need more robust thinking; the kind of critical thinking that encourages us to go forth and actively do, rather than lie down and passively don’t.

My own thinking about such things was willfully ignorant for many years. Don’t know about bliss, but it certainly made things easier, such as grocery shopping.

But certain questions nagged at me:

  • How do they make it so cows keep giving milk?
  • How does being perpetually kept pregnant affect the cows?
  • What happens to the calves after they are born?
  • How are the mothers affected by having their calves taken from them shortly after birth?
  • What happens to a milk-producing cow after her years of faithful service, when she no longer gives milk?

The answers are important because my consumption directly contributes to such questions coming up at all. My consumption is important because the answers I’ve since learned conflict with my own personal Hippocratic oath.

Which means I must either forget what I have learned or take action to resolve the dissonance.

Take action is the key here. I did not “give up” cheese, which, as I said before, would be a non-action. Instead, I asked questions, found out the answers, and have adjusted my actions accordingly.

Not eating cheese is simply a byproduct of new, more ethically-conscious behaviors and habits I am cultivating.

I don’t miss cheese, the presumed hole its absence left is filled, and I am already several questions and answers beyond it.

In Search of Meaningful

Gary and I went to the Vermont History Expo last Sunday and had the fortune of listening to University of Vermont’s Professor Harvey Amani Whitfield speak about The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont 1777-1810.

The root of the multi-faceted problem is that although Vermont did outlaw slavery in its constitution – the first state to ever do so – a significant amount of slavery persisted for several years thereafter; moreover, the ostensible freedom delivered by such a radical-for-the-times anti-slavery provision was not meaningful for even the Afro-Vermonters who subsequently acquired it.

That is, according to Dr. Whitfield, they did not have meaningful freedom.

One example he gave of this lack of meaningful is illustrated by the aforementioned law prohibiting slavery only for adults. African-American kids, who were thus not protected, were routinely kidnapped and sold into slavery without repercussions. So a free African-American parent would be forced to work closer to home regardless of whether better wages could be obtained elsewhere, just so they could offer defense against such common occurrence.

In some ways, meaningful here seems to cash out as real or true; as in, if a person is given two choices where one of the choices is not a decent option at all, then that person hasn’t been given a real – or true — choice; that person does not have real or true freedom.

So why use the term meaningful?

Good question and one I might ask the professor if I have a chance. Or one that I might find in his eponymous book published by the Vermont Historical Society. But for now I’ll offer my spin on it, which makes the nuanced phrasing meaningful to me:

Because meaningful carries more subjective weight and is what we use when we are evaluating our circumstances.

Real and True both give off a false air of objectivity, as if the existence of such things as personal freedom can be decided externally. The loaded terms seem to invoke chalkboards and checklists; some kind of tests; an unchanging algorithm of indifference. But meaningful is a human quality only observed through the eyes of personal circumstances, either yours or someone else’s.

If asked whether or not a parent with a child at risk of being kidnapped has true choice, true freedom, we might start weighing risks, sorting out different possibilities, and assigning values. However, when we are asked about it in terms of meaningful, our landscape — our point of view — immediately changes to a more sympathetic one. When it does, what might have been options under another view suddenly dissolve into absurdity.

Indeed, so much so, I want to take his nuanced phrasing – the addition of meaningful – and use it elsewhere, like in talks of decent wages, opportunities, and living conditions, where decent far too often becomes like real and true, subject to a false objectivity that smugly mistakes crumbs for nourishment, walls for doors, and cages for castles.

Or in talks of peace incorrectly viewed as absence of war; or in talks of ethics where good intentions bow to bureaucracy; or in talks of fighting poverty while those with the power to do so only add more rungs.

On and on it goes, with the meaning of our precious nouns meaning less and less. We need meaningful Life, meaningful Liberty, and meaningful Pursuit of Happiness.

Forget finding the meaning of life. What we need are more meaningful lives and an America that contributes to their development.

New Year’s Gay

Yes, this is another gay-affirming post. But it is also about dark matter, hyperloops, giant drill bits, collecting dung, and English as the dominant language for science.

I just wanted to mention the gay part upfront so that any homophobes who may have unintentionally stumbled upon this blog can flit away to the safety of their sandboxes where they can bury their heads and wait for Fox news to come on.

This post started at the Laundromat.

Well, technically, significant parts of it started way before that, but I will say it started at the Laundromat just for the sake of narrative clarity. Regardless, I found myself stuck there with the horrible misfortune of not having brought anything to read.

Now the nice thing about places that often require a great deal of waiting is that they tend to have reading material strewn about. It may not always be the preferred choice of such things, but it is there. As such, I can typically make do, having an eclectic enough yearning for learning that I can find things of interest from a variety of sources.

Just the other day, I read a most fascinating article by a biologist on the abnormal shift in the rutting patterns of deer. This was at the Mazda dealership, in a hunting magazine outside my usual perusing of periodicals called North American Whitetail.

As luck would have it, the Laundromat had something more straightforwardly in align with my tastes: the November 2013 issue of Popular Science.

Sad to say, I’m not smart enough to do science, or at least do it justice. Lot of the math behind the cutting edge leaves me in question mark land. But I can usually — somewhat — grasp the significance and implications of, say, a discovery, even if some (much) of the technical part goes over my head. If nothing else, I can go “ohhh” and “ahhh” as my understanding, dim as it may still be, is illuminated.

Dark matterDunkle Materie — is an entire intellectual orgasm worth of Ohs and Ahs. If you study philosophy and/or religious studies, you should want to pay some serious attention to it. Basically, it would seem, based on things like galaxies rotating faster than what would be expected and other gravitational effects that would require more mass — more material — in the universe than what is visible, that something is missing.

Something that takes up about 85% of our reality.

Another way of putting this would be that we are woefully ignorant — in the dark, to squeeze in a lame pun — of 85% of the universe. That’s a mind-tripping large amount of an invisible something making up the vast majority of, well, everything.

The way the article describes the current hunt for the elusive dark matter is too good an analogy not to share. It is like going after the invisible man. Say the invisible man were a jogger. You believe he is likely to jog down a certain street that has other joggers on it. So you watch the street. Watch and watch and watch. Because it is probable that at some point at some time during his daily jogging, he will happen to bump into another jogger, thus giving evidence of his presence.

You watch, and hope, and pray for that bump.

Other articles didn’t leave me quite as spellbound, but were nevertheless fascinating:

The fifty-seven foot wide drill bit tearing into Seattle ground with a force that would bring tears of joy to Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s eyes.

A proposed Hyperloop transportation system that seems like something straight out of science fiction, but is close to becoming reality. I could be wrong in my imagining here, but I’m thinking of the contestants in The Running Man traveling down those high-speed tubes and ejected onto the stage.

Profiles of some of the worst and best jobs for scientists. Worst were things like Dead Moose Dissector and Bush-Meat Market Data Collector (i.e. collecting dung). One of the best, and my personal favorite, was Extreme Product Tester, which should be self-explanatory.

The short bit on English being the current international language of science made me think how we evolve as a human race and how easily it could go in some other direction. We who speak English as a native language tend to expect the world will always understand us. What if we suddenly found that to be taken seriously as thinkers we had to write in Chinese?

Okay, so, that’s the science bit of this post, and on to the gay content.

But a prelude to the gay content is straight content, as the contents are linked. And it’s from the same magazine I’ve been talking about here: Popular Science.

As I flipped through the pages I came across an ad for Lee jeans. Now this was Popular Science, not GQ or Sports Illustrated, so the heterosexual context was more low-key. But still, in the picture, hanging on to the male model’s arm, was a woman, looking up at the jeans-wearer with adoring, relationship eyes.

They were not doing anything sexual, yet the image clearly indicated a heterosexual predisposition. A predisposition subtle enough that people with a similar predisposition might not notice it any more than right-handed people regular notice that the majority of desks in classrooms are designed with them in mind.

But I notice.

And I try to remember this when my culturally-instilled self-loathing tries to emerge and tell me I’m “too out” or “flaunting it” or in some other way acting in a fashion deserving of restraint. I try to remember this and think “Are you kidding?”

If anything, I’m not out enough, not forward enough, not yet bold enough in my proclamation of self.

We soak in heterosexuality. It is flaunted in subtle and not so subtle ways. So much so, it is not recognized as the flaunting that it is, or even that it is. Instead, it is typically absorbed without awareness into our subconscious and sweated out in policy-making that might seem at first glance — which is far too often also the only glance — as neutral, objective even, but actually isn’t.

So what is to be done about this? What can be done? What should be done?

Well, for starters, we of the LGBTQ community can speak out more. I don’t mean speak out more against the status quo of heterosexuality or against the subtle pervasion of homophobia. Although of course we can do those things, and we have been doing those things, and we should continue doing those things.

Rather, I mean we need to speak out more for ourselves.

We need to move away from being a persecuted class into being that of a liberated one. We need to become less concerned about how others view us and more concerned about how we view ourselves. Acceptance by others is a benefit, but acceptance of ourselves is a requirement.

These are not unrelated or incompatible notions. For the more rock-solid view of ourselves we have — and the more we assert our natural right to express it — the less damage the fickle weather of the majority can cause us. What does a mountain care about either sunshine or thunderstorm?

My 2014 goal is to market my writing, and myself, with the artistic honesty and integrity both deserve. With that in mind, I have created New Business Cards.

New Business Cards

Let the New Year begin!

The Cure, Concepts, and Functional Sameness

I turned to look at you
To read my thoughts upon your face
And gazed so deep into your eyes
So beautiful and strange
Until you spoke
And showed me understanding is a dream
“I hate these people staring
Make them go away from me!”
—- the Cure, How Beautiful You Are

I am (slowly) reading this wholly engaging and insightful book on thought by Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander called Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking. In it, they argue that analogy is not only a primary component of what we call thinking, but it is essential; it is foundational to thought occurring at all.

I think they’re on to something and hope to write much on that something, but right now I want to focus on their deconstruction of concepts, which I think glosses over a crucial something that I further think is pretty much universally glossed over. It is not the kind of crucial that would destroy their overall thesis (like I said, I think they’re onto something). But it is the kind or crucial that keeps me up at night and frames, or at least adds to, my perspective on things.

We are so used to living our lives conceptually, that we take concepts for granted, not spending much time thinking about how there really is not anything spoken or written or thought that is not coming from our ongoing conceptual construction, which not only encompasses the obvious ones understood as concepts like dogs and cats and chairs, but also ones not so obvious like and and the and a.

Hofstadter and Sander systematically disabuse us of the notion that concepts are somehow out there like planets waiting to be discovered; rather, it is the opposite. They are slippery and somewhat arbitrary beasts coming from inside us, subject to change and very much to our collective whim.

One important way they show this is through comparing languages, focusing on what every translator knows well: there are major differences in how languages divide things conceptually, making one-to-one word translation often impossible. For example:

We know what time it is right now… how much time it will take to drive to the airport, and how many times we’ve done so before. These three ideas strike us as being… about just one concept: the concept known as “time”

In France, however, our conceptually monolithic time is regarded as involving three separate concepts, therefore requiring a distinct word to be used to convey the meaning of each particular situation clearly.

The authors give many other thought-provoking examples, but another one I found most fascinating was from Indonesia. Where we describe siblings in terms of sister and brother, meaning female sibling and male sibling respectively, Indonesians break out siblings in term of comparative age. So instead of brother and sister, they use kakak and adik, which mean “elder sibling” and “younger sibling”.

The overall point is that how things get broken up conceptually is not universal, and can differ significantly from culture to culture; collectively created out of what that society deems important, efficient, or just plain sensible.

However, the authors go on to say, for a large number of concepts there is good agreement across languages. This would be expected, as we are all human and do things like walk and talk and eat and sleep and so on.

But — and the but here is now me interjecting my own tangential thoughts into the matter — agreement is not the same as identical. We may, at times, be able to translate one word directly for another, and it may serve the function we intended, but I’m not convinced the ‘meaning’ content is the same. Indeed, I take this strand of thought further, wanting to contend that concepts break down differently at the individual level not just at the cultural one.

Oh, we have agreement, sure, and linguistic workarounds. And it is true enough that someone’s not going to say dog to me and I’m going to picture, say, a horse. But at the core level, at the necessarily individualized experiential level, I think the agreement is of functional sameness masquerading as an identically shared concept.

For even though we each employ the use of ostensibly mutually understood concepts in our dialogues with one another, we can’t help but fill in those thought containers with our personalized specifics and shade the understanding with our own life experiences. This might be one of the reasons why it is so difficult to find common ground; we can never absolutely know someone else’s ground let alone completely share it.

By our very nature, at the most basic biologically confining level, everyone already IS an island and never will be — never can be — anything else.

And this is why I hate you
And how I understand
That no-one ever knows or loves another

More Time Here than at Home

I often here this phrase — more time here than at home — at work. Usually it is nested in some variant form of an extended Joe Workforce maxim:

Best to keep a good attitude at work and do what you can to make things pleasant. After all, we spend more time here than at home.

I’ve even said it myself.

And I usually nod if someone else says it, offer verbal consent, or in some other way affirm the validity of it. But of late I have started thinking about it and have come to realize it is not only wrong-minded but perverse.

Oh, not the making things pleasant part. Such an attempt should be made in any situation, work or otherwise, as life on its own can already be quite difficult for all concerned without heaping unnecessary conflict upon it.

I mean the more time here than at home part.

People recite this disturbing line in a matter-of-fact fashion, take it as a given, and otherwise accept it as being the way of the world. But if it is the way of the world, it seems to be a strange one indeed if family is as important a value as people often claim it is.

I mean it is strange one where we are not horrified at such a thought.

Think of it another way. Say 100,000 heartbeats were left In your life. That’s about a day, maybe less. Would that last beat sound out joy at having spent 90,000 of them filing documents in the right place or making sure all phone calls were returned in a “timely” manner?

And yeah, I know about having a strong work ethic. I have a strong one myself, so don’t even go there. For If you go there, you’re totally missing the point. And yeah, yeah, I know work has to be done for a society to function, so don’t go there either as that’s missing the point too.

We have this false, somewhat iconic image of the hard-working “high-level” executive who is so swamped with work that they miss Bobby’s little league game or Susie’s dance recital. Such an image stays in our subconscious so we dogmatically accept faulty notions of “job-creators” and how the wealthy deserve what they have because of all their industrious sacrifice to society.

But the truth is, if you really are powerful and wealthy, you have the ability to flex your schedule so you can attend whatever function you choose. You have the resources to base your decisions on personal values rather than need. You have the luxury of spending — or not spending — more of your time with family.

Do you think people like Mitt Romney fret about whether they can get time off for a PTA meeting or worry about not being able to get it up for their spouses because work has left them so exhausted?

Hell, Don Marsh had so much of all three — ability, resources and luxury — he had enough to squander it on whores he had strewn across the country.

The people who truly miss out on spending time with family are the time-clock punchers funding the Don Marshes and the Mitt Romneys of the world.

They are the 99% who have such little ability to make their own family-prioritizing schedules that they have to make due with an obscene work model dressed up as a work ethic. I know this because I am one of those 99% and I am currently making due.

But as I grow older and ever closer to that last heartbeat, the absurdity of this twisted way of life gets to me.

Especially as I can hear the 1% laughing.

Can’t you?

Not Enough Compasses

We have too many laws and not enough compasses.

I was going to write about Mr. Marsh of Marsh Supermarkets and his curious claim that he was unaware of being under a code of conduct during his employment.  I have strong opinions about morality versus law (or code or policy or commandment).

Obeying or not obeying some edict or other has little to do with being moral. Many religions drive me crazy with their specious claims to morality. If you are only doing or not doing something for fear of punishment by the Big G in the sky, the policeman down the street, or your mum and dad, you may be curbing behavior but you are certainly not automatically being moral.

Instead, you are just a dog not pissing on the carpet for fear of the master’s lash.

I thought I would write on this and segue into Boy Scouts territory with a deconstruction of “morally straight” in their oath. I would talk about the shallow absurdity of believing that straight refers to “put your penis there but not there.”

But I think I might write about a dead raccoon instead.

Living in the city, I do not see a decent variety of wildlife. But my husband and I have started feeding the stray cats that come by and that has attracted other creatures, like birds and dogs and squirrels. And, until now, the raccoon.

He loved our house. After eating, he would shimmy up the wooden beams on our porch and hang out on our roof.

Last night I came home from the SGI Buddhist Center. As I parked in the street I saw him about fifteen feet in front of me. Dead.

Ran-over. Killed. Murdered.

He was so beautiful up there on our roof; a beautiful that will be no more.

Today I sent a service request to the Mayor’s Action Center. It’s an efficient site. I just picked the correct options from drop down boxes: dead animal — raccoon — location.  There are laws governing such things and I did my part, my civic duty, by reporting it.

But such action on my part wasn’t moral. It was functional,  behavioral, and responsible, but not moral. Morality can certainly include those three things, but those things can also be separate.

Instead, morality is the feeling I get when I contribute to the beautiful, whether on the rooftop or elsewhere in the world. It is the pit I feel in my stomach, like it’s been hollowed out, when I see the once beautiful now just so much discarded meat in the road.

Morality requires action, but it also requires a feeling; an emotional pull on the needle of your personal moral compass that keeps you heading in the right direction.

Passing laws or policies has little to do with instilling people with their own moral compasses. But the good news is that compasses come pre-installed. There just aren’t enough compasses being used as we too often settle on the ease — and empty morality — of simply obeying the rules.

It is time for us to move beyond canine obedience into human compassion.

Think Progress.

For the Love of Libraries

Tonight the West Indianapolis Library — my closest branch — had the pleasure of hosting an informal chat with Indianapolis Public Library CEO Jackie Nytes. She brought along with her Collections Director Deb Lambert. It was one stop of many they will make this month, which will see them visiting each and every branch for similar chats.

Some of the main points of discussion were:

  • The composition of the collection
  • Print versus electronic materials usage
  • Dissemination of what the library has to offer
  • Community needs and habits

Although diverse in topics, the underlying theme — and ultimate purpose for her chats — is  envisioning the public library of the future… and taking steps now towards making it a reality.

A decent public library is one of the hallmarks of a great nation. For it is a welcomed equalizer in a world that is often lopsided in distribution of wealth, resources, and good circumstances. It does this by granting power equaling knowledge to anyone who wants it, regardless of their current situation.

Vive la bibliothèque!