Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I know I've been all over the map lately. Choices lead to consequences! Self-control is not natural! We need to figure out ways to control our environment in complex ways! Controlling your children doesn't work, listening does! And so on. The truth is, the tension between freedom and accountability is a tightrope I've been walking my whole life. Questions about the importance of discipline versus freedom, civilization versus anarchy, the life of the intellect versus the life of the spiritual seeker, constitute major fault lines in my understanding of the world.

For a long time I thought to find answers in Quakerism, which attempts to unite the worldly life of the activist with the quest for deeper understanding. As William Penn once wrote: "True godliness does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it." But in the end, I couldn't make it as a Quaker. I didn't believe enough in the central tenets of Christianity.

Those first years without a religion were really tough. I was struggling to construct an ethical framework out of thin air. Nature doesn't give us much to work with, really: genocide and wanton cruelty all over. I missed my color-by-number belief system.

Religion has for so many years been the sole arbiter of ethics. Now that it has begun widely to fall away, what will step into the breach? It takes a lot of power to make humans toe the line, and character-building seminars at the office aren't going to cut it. Are we evolving past ethics? Are we now to discipline ourselves? What will hold us accountable for hurtful behaviors toward ourselves, other living beings, the planet itself? Does the legal system have a right to uphold ethics? Will too much external discipline, via laws and regulations, foster rebellion without the promise of heavenly reward the church used to sweeten the pot? And doesn't too much self-discipline turn us into self-righteous little schmucks?

I have no answers. I have more important things on my plate, i.e. figuring out what to wear tomorrow. It's my first date with a fellow whose mind I have fallen in love with in my impetuous and generally ill-considered way, and I need to factor in hiking, swimming, possible rain, portability, and cuteness. WAAAAY too tall an order for someone so long accustomed to wearing my one pair of pants and whichever shirt had the least compost ground into it.

But don't worry, I brought out the big guns. Laura called and talked me through the whole thing, one article of clothing at a time. But in return she exacted a promise from me: I have to sleep tonight. So that's all for now. Wish me eloquence, mysterious beauty, charisma, an unending supply of interesting conversational topics, and above all LUCK!

Which, I suppose, is as good a god as any.


  1. I wish you all of the above! And, by the way, YOU would look beautiful in anything you put on because you are gorgeous and brilliant! Have fun!!!

  2. So true, Shelayna.
    I was struggling with the ethics, and really trying to get into it, but in the back of my mind, a little voice asked, "What, is she not going to mention tomorrow's outfit?" But, then you did! And that is why you the coolest guy's perfect girlfriend - philosophy, cuteness, and humor - you have it all.

  3. "You the coolest"? You know what I meant.