Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Conscience: For some, The Great Argument against submitting one’s self to a “so-called” objective truth and goodness.

Conscience. For others, the God given organ in each human designed to show us the way toward truth, goodness and beauty.

If conscience is organ-like, can we weaken or even destroy the organ by ignoring it? Conversely, can we, over time, exercise the organ so that it is more highly attuned to truth and goodness … to God-likeness?

Switching Metaphors Are we equipped with an ethical tuning fork that resonates to truth and goodness, or is it the case where all we are sensing are the reverberations of environmental and social conditioning?

If it is the latter, can we then actually speak of having a “conscience”? Isn’t it more a case where we possess “consciousness”: a subjective awareness of what others/society believe to be “useful” ways of living?

So, we are utterly dependent on the subjective opinions of others to show us the way? Does anyone think Western Civilization would have ever developed, had this been how the Three Greeks (Plato-Socrates-Aristotle), Erasmus and Luther, and Washington-Jefferson and Co viewed conscience and the reality of an objective truth and goodness?

I think that if we believe that God has not created all humans with a conscience that is to guide us toward an ever-increasing awareness of an objective truth and goodness, what we are left with is the “ethical” standard of Captain Jack Sparrow:

The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do.

And if this is the case, all we have is Naked Power -- via majority-vote or a Despot -- deciding for us all how we should live. Not exactly a model conducive for supporting and defending human dignity, is it?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body. CS Lewis

The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than the real. It is by the real that we exist, it is by the ideal that we live. Victor Hugo

A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. Gandhi

Being the New Year has arrived I have been thinking about the popular practice of making New Year’s Resolutions and wondering what I could write that would help people better themselves.

Why do the vast majority of people give up on their Resolutions before February?

What is it that deters us from making the changes we sincerely wish to make in our lives?

I believe that all battles are won or lost in the soul. Whether it is the battle to lose weight, create healthy relationships or to become more prosperous, “winning” begins in the soul. Why? Because it is here where our values, ideals, and beliefs reside and it is these that dictate our attitudes and behaviors.

It seems to me that, in our technology driven culture, the soul is something that is overlooked. What we want are skill-sets and techniques, formulas and algorithms, rather than depth of soul. We want a book that gives us 7 Steps to Financial Success not one that digs around in our belief systems and values, challenging our notions of, say, personal responsibility and labor.

“Too touchy feely.”

“Too ambiguous.”

“Not practical.”

The fact is, however, unless we transform some of our beliefs and ideals, whatever techniques we learn will be ineffectual, or at least not as effectual as they could be. Techniques and skills are important, of course. But what happens when your skills are not supported by your deepest values and beliefs?

What you believe about “good and bad,” what you believe about “time and history,” your concepts of “Ideal Behaviors” and your beliefs about “God” and “spirituality” all drive your approach in going about living your day-to-day life. Of course the initial rub is that many people are clueless as to their beliefs and such and, therefore, also clueless as to how to make the wanted and necessary changes in this regard.

Going Deeper

I think the art of crafting or developing a soul with depth and breadth is becoming a lost art: it is something for monks and priests and little old ladies with time on their hands. Yet, it is this mindset that not only leaves people two-dimensional, but it also creates a society where the major issues of the day will remain unsolved.

Soul-less people equivocate, they cower before moral issues, having no core from which to address the foundational concerns. No, for these people the answer is always primarily Politics and Power. And it’s quite easy to harass and manipulate such people. The questions here, then, are no longer moral or philosophical or, heaven forefend, spiritual. It’s not about the soul it’s about technique. It’s not about Truth, Goodness or Beauty but purely about What is Useful for the Powers That Be.

The answers or solutions to what vexes us as individuals and a nation lie within the soul, not (primarily) in passing the correct laws or enacting the proper regulations, or following the 7 Steps to Success. The challenge here, however, is that developing souls takes patient work and deep reflection over time, and we want our problems — be they personal or societal — solved in the next election cycle.

“Think? Reflect? Meditate? Praaaaaay? Hell, No! WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING.” That’s the mindset that leads to placing Band Aids on a cancer.

This nation was founded on the premise that Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness were gifts from God. We then developed laws to protect these gifts. Rather than arguing about (for example) the next best Stimulus Package what about a conversation regarding these concepts? What do you believe -- what do I believe, what do we believe -- about these gifts? Are they even gifts or are they grants from the State?

Back to you: Rather than focusing all of your attention on the proper technique for losing weight, earning more money, or creating healthy relationships how about taking a long hard look at your soul?

What if there is a hole in your soul that you are seeking to fill with food, money or people? Do you think there will ever be enough to fill the void? What if that void can only be filled with Truth, Goodness and Beauty? What if the void is actually spiritual? I know—this is a stretch for some of you, but it certainly won’t hurt to think about it, long and hard. Will it?

What about making a resolution to go deeper than diets, financial planning and steps for making healthier friendships, and begin working on your soul? What about placing the important but secondary issues in the background and making your soul a priority?

Do you want a “Happy New Year”? Nietzsche said, “There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art and knowledge.” Happiness isn’t primarily something that comes with being skinny, financially flush and having loads of friends: it is something that is first made in the soul … or so I believe.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011