Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who would Buddha bomb?

[photo: Sherlock enjoys the beauty of a single rhododendron blossom]
I imagine I am like many readers in envying Randy Cohen, who gets to write "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times, and now, the blog. Judging from the 208 comments his first topic got (should Madonna [a celebrity] be allowed to adopt another Malawi baby?) there are many people eager to explain how they think other people should act, and asking the eternal question, How come he gets to be The Ethicist and I don't? After all, civilization is just an agreement that we will act in certain ways, so we should examine what we agree to.

But it's so abstract. It's people talking not about their own lives, but about theoretical Other People's Lives. In no time, someone wonders, "Is it possible to behave ethically if you don't believe in God?" I always wonder, When's the last time that guy called his mother? And, Is that a hamburger he's eating?

On the other hand, if it amuses monkeys to draw pictures in the dust with a stick, what's the harm in that? Well, I don't know. Maybe it distracts us from the issues we really need to be addressing. What should you be addressing right now? What should I? That's easy. I am sitting here typing without wearing the sleeve that keeps my lymphedemic arm healthy. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll add that I couldn't find the sleeve right off-hand this morning in the dark. It wasn't where I usually put it. Oh well, I thought. Later, after Tom's up.

Was this little action a matter of Right and Wrong? My parents thought so, and keenly hoped to teach me to hang up my clothes even when nobody's watching. By that standard, I am a total failure of civilization. And these things snowball. As you know, if you have a chair in your bedroom, by the time you hang up the clothes you didn't hang up yesterday, you will be too tired to hang up today's clothes. They will get wrinkled lying there, maybe get dust mites in them, making more work for you tomorrow. Bad karma. That should be enough theory for anyone. I know I'm worn out just thinking about it.

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