Authority, Vice, and Virtue

It seems to me that our Creator exercises wide discretion when giving benefits on earth, as some receive more than others, especially things like good looks and opportunity.

And to the extent that all benefits we receive are really just gifts, it is probably not our province as the receivers to demand more, or to take more than what we’ve been given (especially ungratefully).

And yet, in all the different areas of vice on earth, sometimes we’re not sure just what things are fair game (gifts) to be accepted.  Our emotional impulses tend to impair our logic, frequently making it difficult to embrace what might otherwise be common sense – some of the most enticing vices in this world are not gifts for us to accept, sorry.

Why are they there then?  Why can’t I let my emotions run wild with the money in my bank account and some new friends?  Well, it just might be the case that material life itself is part of an elaborate divine test, designed to determine whether we are fit to humbly embrace our positions in life, or alternatively, whether we will take what does not belong to us.  For the sake of honesty, here are some counter-arguments: death is certain, the planet could be hit by a meteor at anytime, humans are animalistic, emotions are natural, we learn some of the best lessons and make great achievements by mistakes, vice is relative, yada yada yada.

We can avoid envy by expecting heaven, a mindset that theoretically can be accomplished by honoring the virtue of Creation and respecting one another.  We can avoid regrettable lust by fearing that light will be cast on all scurrilous deeds eventually. We can avoid gluttony by honoring our bodies, which is best done by laboring for a bountiful harvest.  We can avoid unproductive forms of greed by reassuring ourselves we are laying up our treasures in heaven, which requires us to work everyday to create value.  We can avoid sloth by seeking the approval of our Creator, and in doing so comfort each other, and meditate, and take care of our bodies.  We can avoid wrath by offering forgiveness and keeping faith in divine judgment, but without withdrawing support for governments on earth to do justice.  We can avoid unearned pride by remembering our place on earth, without losing sight that we may enjoy life as children of the Creator, which makes us potentially awesome.

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It’s a fascinating thing that humans utilize human suffering and weakness for a great many of the things we love.  We use to it propel the plots of our tragedies and adventure movies for example.  All laughter has its root in weakness of some form.  And sexually, we use the weakness of nakedness for delightful reasons (not to mention the cross-over with comedy).  When it comes down to it, the moral standard for using weakness can be found in one’s intention.  If you have love for people, you show happiness for the hero, and remorse for the fallen.  You laugh with the person who is the butt of the joke.  And you only partake in sexuality with someone whom you are prepared to care for appropriately.  The goal in all instances might very well be to align one’s activities with virtue, so you cannot take advantage of people in any way that would violate the golden rule.  Because we find people routinely building useful and diverse experiences from human weaknesses, the golden rule actually tends to allow wide latitude in human experience (depending on whom you associate with).

Virtue and honesty have an intriguing relationship on this matter of human weakness.  Is it ever advisable to discuss in detail or share entirely one’s own faults?  Whether the golden rule requires people to be entirely honest with one another should depend on the expectations involved.  With that said though, truth may be the medium upon all real moments of life, and is something to chase even at the expense of the comfort of vice. 

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