Reach for your goal. Reach for the stars. Chase your dreams. Since our childhood, most of us have been inundated with philosophy that everything we want to achieve is outside rather than in. That life is about finding ways to get what we want. It is consumerism dressed up in the fads achieving our personal potential. If you grew up in the Christian Church for example, you get taught that ‘God’s mysterious will’ is nowhere near. That his will is somewhere out there. That our lives are about guessing at where his will is and what its supposed to look like. But even outside the confines of claustrophobic Christianity there is this life message that whatever we’re searching is completely and utterly separate from us. I think we have also come to do the same with morality.
We’ve gotten it in our heads that morality is a plumbline we grapple for or wrestle others over. But what if morality is deeper than something that’s out there? What if morality has been ingrained within us? Maybe somewhere deep down embedded in the acids of our DNA is the coding for morality. Somehow people know at a very young age that stealing is wrong. Most people can try to explain it away as parental nurture, but there is more to it than that. Or that we can go to any country in the world and somewhere somehow we all know that killing is destructive behaviour.
For some, morality is something that is either taught, learned or gained through familial contact or social interaction. Yet there are people who didn’t have good parents or no parents at all and grew up without much social interaction or exposure to accessible information and yet can interact with a culture and still know the basic ‘rules’ fo morality. For others, morality seems to be something we have to achieve to or earn. That the more we do the more moral we become. If that’s true, than morality has always been a commodity we can purchase. Then morality sits in our hotel vending machines waiting for us to choose it.
But, morality isn’t a rule. It isn’t a plumbline. It isn’t a tool to determine who is in and who is out. It is something that part of each person. We don’t earn morality. It earns us. The more in touch with our humanity we become the more moral we become. Morality is a gene. But not a gene that we can see or study. Its a gene that progressively evolves over time, but unlike any other gene it is effected and altered by the decisions we make and don’t make. It is transformed by compassion and deformed by the lack of it.
Morality isn’t a characteristic that was somehow born out of the ancient Christian scriptures. It wasn’t birthed out of the introduction of evolution. It isn’t a course you can take at a university. There’s no degree you can get in morality. Morality is in us. We are all moral. Its how we choose to use that knowledge that will determine how we nurture the growth of that morality within us. So, the origins of morality lie in each human being but are grown through the intentional everyday process of making choices.
If morality is subjective than is there a plumbline is the first apparent question? If there is a plumbline it is found in a multi-systemic worldview. Morals are encouraged by living in a moral society or community. They are also spurred on by what we choose to expose our minds to. Moral subjectivity is not the enemy to the progress of any society, the enemy is when homogenous morality is used as way to marginalize people into our neat little boxes. Moral subjectivity leads a society to embrace diversity by seeing that their worldview isn’t the only right one. Moral homogeneity says everyone needs to see everything the same.
Now the problem comes when someone thinks that their moral worldview is much more valuable than the person standing next them. The moment that moral subjectivity becomes moral superiority is when things like the Holocaust or the Crusades leave open scars on our history. Events like this instill just enough fear in people that to even hear words like ‘moral subjectivity’ force them to cringe at the next global episode likely to occur because of such terminology. Most tend to blame the development of such atrocious acts on the lack of parenting skills or chock it up to bad highschool experiences. For the most part people tend to blame events outside of the perpetrators life to help explain why they are the way are. But maybe its deeper than attempting to victimize those that have made historically destructive decisions.
Decisions belong to those who make them. The after-effects of someone’s decision are the life-long souvenirs they will carry with them. And those souvenirs are indicative of the origins of where they learned to make moral choices. If the origins of moral subjectivity lie in the heart of a person than no longer can people blame outside unseen forces. If moral subjectivity is true than one can only blame themselves. This is an incredibly empowering discovery because than it means that everyone is responsible to developm morality in light of their journey. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t objective morals to follow, it means that our development can remain subjective all the searching for the objective. That we don’t have to push, pull and prod our way through the library to find the one book that teaches us how to be all things moral. This reality leaves us with a responsibility not only to choose progress but to help one another on our journey, and by doing so we help usher in a new morality that is much needed in light of our current cultural shift.