A new understanding
Everyone, from the sages and prophets, especially the big one, Jesus, to the latest UFO "abductee," spend half their time claiming that love is the answer. I've always dismissed that as somewhere between nonsense and only a part of the truth.
I suppose I saw love as either sexual or involving folk in tie-dyed clothes dancing barefoot through the flowers proclaiming love and tolerance while working up a fine hatred of anyone who didn't agree exactly with whatever was their dogma of the month. All that has changed.
Strange thing is, it happened in a single moment. You see, I was meditating, that is, staring at the screen while a few vague, freeform thoughts floated through the back of my mind. I do a lot of that; it sure beats working.
Anyway, these thoughts mostly involved two issues. The first was the silliness of believing that love solved all problems and the second was the negligence of whoever wrote the otherwise brilliant set of rules for personal and civic behavior we call the Ten Commandments. It seemed obvious that a few more commandments dealing with things like the environment, tolerance and the duties of governments really should have been added.
Then, quite suddenly, an understanding seemed to come from nowhere, along with the realization that these two problems were related, just as Jesus pointed out so long ago (my interest in him is as a moral philosopher, not a religious figure). I understood just what the love the prophets were talking about was.
In short, it means genuinely wishing others well and arranging your life and the world as best you can so that both you and they can prosper and live lives that suit and please you both. Everything else "falls" out of this rule obviously and naturally.
Anyway, what follows is my perception (I won't say thoughts because it just appeared, more or less instantly, at least in principle). Remembering that what counts is the principle, not the exact words, see what you think.
Unconditional love and the resulting commandments
Unconditional love is the key
The key really is unconditional love, that is, truly wishing others well.
If you love the universe, this world, other creatures, other people and importantly yourself, you will wish to live a full and worthwhile life while doing as little harm and as much good as possible. You will also understand that your life is a good thing in and of itself.
To live a good life is a dance, involving judgement, skill and balance. Only love provides the constant guidance and reference point against which all actions can be judged.
To merely live in the world causes harm to others, but a good life counterbalances that harm with the good of your own existence and the good you do. Only love provides the wisdom and taste to recognize a good life; to know that hiding from life and eating only brown rice may not be a good life; that participating fully in life, using the world properly to give comfort and power and knowledge, even hunting or felling trees, even in extreme circumstances killing other people, may be a good life.
All the commandments fall out of, are merely extensions of this principal.
What is unconditional love?
Unconditional love is truly wishing other people and other things well.
Unconditional love does not mean passivity. It is in fact quite muscular, especially when it comes to defending truth and helping and defending others.
Unconditional love means allowing others to live their own lives, in their own ways. In fact, wishing them well and helping them live the lives they choose.
Unconditional love of course means giving them the space to do so. In particular, this means each group not increasing their numbers until they intrude on the space of others.
Trying to force others to live the way you approve of is not love; it is aggression.
A world based on unconditional love would probably tend towards small, rather different nations or states, each respecting other's right to live, wishing others well and being careful not to drift into interfering with them. On the whole, they would like their neighbors.
1. Be thankful that of all the things in the universe you have the wondrous good fortune to be conscious and aware and thus able to enjoy life and the beauty and complexity of the universe and other beings.
2. You have a duty to enjoy and live a good life for you have the astonishing good fortune of a life on this beautiful and fascinating and most rare world. Merely to live you must place your interests above those of other creatures and people and directly or indirectly cause them harm; therefore, your life must be joyful and worthwhile so that the good of your life outweighs the inevitable harm.
3. Keep one day in seven free of work and other intense activities so that all may share a common day to relax and meet and think and pray and have leisure as a community. You should also put aside private time for yourself for your body, mind and soul need time and space to relax, review and develop.
4. Do not harm anything without reason and that reason must be better the more aware and intelligent the being. Only a few reasons of the greatest seriousness justify killing or seriously harming a being as aware and complex as a person, the prime one being direct self-defense or defense of others.
5. Love, preserve and share truth and always seek it by experiment and observation and through others' observations. Do not hold to beliefs after new information makes it obvious that they are not the truth.
6. Seek knowledge and the ability to care for the world and make yours and others' lives better and richer in all ways. In conjunction with others, build upon the knowledge and abilities built up by those who have gone before and hand them on, improved, to those who will follow after.
7. Know, accept and love yourself, your group and your species. Do not deny your nature but rather work with it, use its strengths and accept and work around its weaknesses.
8. Love and honour the generations who went before you and do not lightly discard their wisdom or their works. You have a special responsibility to love and honour and care for your parents.
9. Love and honour all others now living and wish them well and be tolerant of their ways and desires. Avoid doing them harm where possible and do them good where practical. You have a special responsibility to love and honour and care for those of your own community.
10. Love and honour the generations who will follow you and avoid harming them or the future. You have a special responsibility to love and honour and care for your children.
11. Love and honour the world and all its kinds of life and do not use it in ways that cause permanent harm.
12. Do not increase your numbers to the point where life is made less pleasant or poorer, or where room is not left for others who wish to live differently, or for other kinds of life. Too few is always safer than too many.
13. Do not harm others' relationships, especially when there are children involved, or where the relationship is important to those involved and especially not for your own momentary gratification.
14. Do not steal and especially do not wrongly take from individuals and those who cannot afford the loss. Do not mercilessly press even a just debt against those in need.
15. Do not corrupt the law or wrongly use it against others or for your own advantage. The law must be just and tolerant and must be easy, affordable, available and fair for everyone. Do not stand between the people and the law for your own advantage, or for any other purpose.
16. Do not envy another's good fortune as that is destructive of yourself and leads to a lack of love for, and crimes against others. Likewise, share your own good fortunes.
17. Do all things in moderation and do not have unreasonable expectations of yourself or others.
18. Look into the heart of your mind and soul and you will know what is right and what is wrong. Be guided by that. However, you must be careful for it is easy to lie to yourself and pretend that what you would wish, or what is convenient, is right.
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Copyright 1999 Stephen Heyer