Ethics begins with judgment and choice, and we know that how we choose to treat others is what is most important, as the kind of world in which we live radiates from personal decisions and interactions. The values and principles that guide our choices rest on a natural interpretation of experience, and are derived from the emotional capacities and intellectual abilities of human beings and the culture they create.
What would it be like to have a very intentional focus on living more ethically for a year? How can we pay more attention to our actions - and reactions, being more reflective in the choices we make when we interact with people, the choices we make in our daily lives, the choices we make as we try to make the world a better place? Could we do this for a year? What would we do?
Quite a few people have written books in recent years chronicling their experiences of spending a year living according to a certain set of specifications. The Year of Living Biblically and The Year of Living Like Jesus are perhaps the most well-known examples of this genre. But my library catalog also has One Year to an Organized Life, A Year of Living Your Yoga, The Artist's Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living, and even Living Oprah: my one-year experiment to walk the walk of the queen of talk. Of great interest to me now is No Impact Man, since we are invited to a conference call with Colin Beaven, the man who for a year lived with minimal environmental impact, on Sunday, January 16, 2011. We'll have more information to share about this soon. Read more »
So the US military policy of don't ask, don't tell is on the way to being overturned. Lots of people are celebrating, but I'm finding it hard to do that right now. Yes, it is good that a policy which was so blatantly discriminatory will not be in place, a policy which required people to lie, to hide their lives, to not be fully themselves. It is good not to have policies like that.
But two things sadden me about this. One is that this is not the first time that the beginning of removing legalized discrimination took place in the military. Before all the landmark Civil Rights legislation of the 1960's, the US military became officially desegregated in 1948. Why is it that it is in the military, the part of US society most likely to be involved in war, in killing and being killed where we first take steps to address the wrongs of discrimination?
The Spirit of Giving – A Platform by Hugh Taft-Morales, December 2010
December 10 is the day recognized as Human Rights Day in celebration of the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The day is to celebrate the concept of human rights, that there are recognized common human rights (although that is not accepted by all) and to focus on the abuses of human rights.
This year the United Nations focus for the day is on human rights defenders. The UN website tells us
Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims. While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
The American Ethical Union has a presence at the United Nations through the National Ethical Service which works with Non-Governmental Organization status at the United Nations bringing an awareness of human interconnectedness and the importance of keeping ethics central in how nations interact with each other.
The Pink Triangle Trust announced that the Queen of England released a statement today refering to a speech Queen Elizabeth gave which acknowledged that people who "have no faith" can be moral people. I personally don&'t like the terms unbelievers and non-believers, but I do like the sentiment expressed in this excerpt from her speech.
In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and of none. Yet, as the recent visit of His Holiness The Pope reminded us, churches and the other great faith traditions retain the potential to inspire great enthusiasm, loyalty and a concern for the common good.
You can learn more about the Pink Triangle Trust, an organization whose website tells us it was "set up in 1992 to advance the education of the public, and particularly of lesbians and gay men, in the principles and practice of Humanism, and to advance the education of the public, and particularly of Humanists, about all aspects of homosexuality" and you can read the Queen's full text to the General Synod on the Official website of the British Monarchy.
Buy Nothing Day has been going on for almost 20 years now. In the United States it is the day after Thanksgiving - typically the heaviest shopping day of the year, and in other countries it is the next day.
There is a definite activist component for some to Buy Nothing Day - and you can find out about local actions on the Adbusters website. Adbusters is the organization that started Buy Nothing Day. You can find lots of information on their site about this activity and others, including Digital Detox Week (wince - but I'll put it on my calendar for next April.)
I doubt I have ever shopped on the day after Thanksgiving, but now I don't shop with intention and that many others are also not shopping intentionally. I see it as an opportunity to reflect on our heavily consumerist culture. A culture which does not fit well with the values I hold, the values that connect me to Ethical Culture.
I see that rampant consumerism does not take the needs of so many human beings into consideration while helping others have more money than they might ever be able to use. And so much of what we consume does not take the impact that manufacturing in particular can have on the earth.
What do you think? How do you make your purchasing decisions - has that changed over the years? What factors have changed your actions? Have you found ways to give and share that do not require an outlay of money? Will you share them with us?
Harvest of Gratitude - Percival Chubb
And the fruitful earth has fulfilled the promise of spring.
The work of those who labor has been rewarded: They have
Sown and reaped, planted and gathered.
How rich and beautiful is the bounty gathered: The golden
Grain and clustered corn, the grapes of purple and green,
The crimson apples and yellow pears, and all the colors of
Orchard and garden, vineyard and field.
Season follows after season, after winter the spring, after
Summer the harvest-laden autumn.
From bud to blossom, from flower to fruit, from seed to bud
Again, the beauty of earth unfolds.
From the harvest of the soil we are given occasion to garner a
Harvest of the heart and mind:
A harvest of resolve to be careful stewards of all life’s gifts and
A harvest of reverence for the wondrous power and life at work in
Things that grow and in the soul.
A harvest of gratitude for every good which we enjoy, and of fellowship
For all who are sustained by earth’s beauty.
Backed by excellent research and writing of Bergen Ethical Culture Leader Joe Chuman, a resolution passed by the American Ethical Union Annual Assembly in April of 2008 declared that, “the use of torture is the most heinous violation of human dignity.” Prior to its passage, the National Leader’s Council discussed whether torture is really the “most” heinous violation of ethical culture values. After all, what about mass murder and genocide and terrorism? Besides, wasn’t torture supposed to help stop mass murder in the “war on terror?”
While this conversation may seem overly academic to some, it did help me clarify a particular horror of torture. My commitment to Ethical Culture includes an emphasis on the sacredness of relationships. As terrible as the killing of one person by another is, in most cases it occurs in a flash without establishment of any real relationship between killer and killed. Modern warfare is particularly good at creating a distance between them. Much killing is orchestrated with buttons and video screens, a dehumanization that is a topic for another blog.
Torture, however, relies particularly on the establishment of a personal relationship between torturer and tortured. The manipulation of psychology and power creates a perverse relationship twisted by humiliation and suffering. Given my reverence for relationships, I concluded that, yes, torture is the most heinous violation of human dignity and a particularly horrible aspect of U. S. foreign policy. Read more »
We are live. You've found the new home of ESWoW.
I am so delighted to share with you the new home of the Ethical Society Without Walls!! It has been a long journey, taking a lot longer than we expected.
But now we have a new home, one where we can have creative conversations with members and guests, one where members can share more about themselves, where we can continue the conversations we begin on our Community Calls. And we have opportunities. The underlying platform of our website is one which makes it easier to change and add elements, to grow, to be responsive to the suggestions we get from the people who are using the website.
It seems so appropriate that this new website, our new home, is coming at a time when ESWoW is also working towards becoming an independent Ethical Culture Society, supported by the time, the effort and financial contributions of members and those interested in working with and supporting ESWoW. We will be working together to create a vibrant website and a vibrant congregation.
Please explore, join our forums, give us feedback - we want to know what you like about our new site as well as what you don't like. In the coming weeks we will be doing some tweaking and also sharing more with you each week about the contents of our website, how to find them, and most importantly, how you can participate. Read more »