Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rules, Schmules

This post is dedicated to the wonderful Rev. Dr. Carol Hepokoski, who introduced me to the work of Sharon Welch.

It's hard to be a theologian who doesn't believe in much. I'm always grasping for language. I don't like salvation (see two posts below), good, evil... god is iffy in the best of contexts.

I don't use "morality", to give enother example; I think it implies absolutes of Right and Wrong (um, and who decides what those are?) Unlike so much other church language--darn, that stuff gets welded right onto the framework!--I can accept "ethics" as a reasonable substitute. Which is a piece of luck. Let's talk ethics.

In our house we talk a lot about being In Relationship. With each other, with friends, with strangers, with the innumerable aspects of the earth. I perceive us in a constant dynamic with the world around us--whether we like it or not. We strive to be in balanced and fulfilled relationship. I wouldn't call it a faith, but rather a pagan and buddhist inspired ecological worldview. We are all a part of each other. When we hurt someone else, we diminish ourselves.

I don't care for rules much, and that applies to the Golden Rule as well. Different people like and care and are hurt by different things. I'm a bigger fan of its inverse: don't do things to others that you wouldn't want done to you! (Unless explicitly requested. We won't go there.)

Applying my standard to others doesn't take their individual quirks and cultural influences into account. Again, I don't think in terms of there being a "right" way to do things, but ways that work or work somewhat or don't work.

I don't stay centred in relation. I hurt people. I waste resources. I stumble out of balance, again and again.

And I learn from my imbalances, at a depth that I never experienced while caught up in my former perceptions of "right" and "wrong". Judgement blocks understanding. Never more so than when I judge myself.

This unschooly, UUish perspective of mine may best be termed a situational ethic, rather than a rule-bound one. It calls for bringing my perception, caring for others, and mindfulness into every aspect of daily life. It's an ethic of joy. So... yay!

Curious to read further about situational ethics? I recommend A Feminist Ethic of Risk by UU ethicist Sharon Welch. I credit Sharon with moving me considerably along the unschooling path. When I was assigned this book in seminary, the first chapter challenged my (then) framework so strongly that I couldn't bring myself to read further. I denounced it as "boring" in class. As if.


Cindy said...

Wow Elisabeth.

Can I link your blog to mine? Something about all the musings you do feels like you're doing work I just haven't got to yet. So eventually, they'd be my words anyway ... linking us together in the blogosphere ergo being rather like expediting.

I went to church this morning. Thought of you.



Green Betty said...

<--------- Lookie over there! A link to your blog! Ain't it pretty?

Yes, please please link away. What church did you go to?

ellipsemag said...

I'm with you, Green Betty! I remember bringing my children home, back in the dark days of my life when I was single and they were in daycare. Such a different heart-space than where we all are now! I was reacting to the fact that my ds had got in trouble at daycare and I was emphasizing to him that he was going to have to learn to follow the rules, all in French, of course. He listened contritely, and then said to me, 'Maman, c'est quoi les r├Ęgles?' And I felt so much better, because I realized that in our house, in our language, we hadn't talked about rules in any way that had made him see the connection with what they were making him do, or disciplining him for not doing.
This sounds like a great book. I wonder if it's the kind of thing that is general enough to be course-listed for my intro to women's and gender studies course? I'm tired of the head-space of theory. It doesn't mean anything to my students and I'm tired of trying to make it mean stuff, if I'm not convinced it's meaningful.
Jo-Anne E-G

Green Betty said...

Hey, Jo-Anne! How lovely to see you here.

The reading might be a little dense for an intro class; I reckon you'd have to take a look and see what you think.

Give my best to your family. Perhaps we'll all see each other again one of these days.