Tuesday, 29 May 2007

No guarantor. No reward. No punishment.

For all our lives we are trained to think that every action has a consequence, both natural and moral. Natural consequence is impossible to escape. For example, if I let go of an object while it's in a gravity field, it will move towards the strongest gravity pull (i.e., falling). Moral consequence comes from experiences of growing up. For example, when I was a child and I did something that an authority figure did not like, I would be punished (smacking, taking away toys, etc.).

Moral consequence has its foundations in authority, the Father figure. In society, moral consequence is enacted by the police and judicial system. These functions within society exist to ensure that the society itself continues without abberation. Such abberations are confined to prison because there is no place for them within the arrangement of people, activities and rules that we have constructed.

But who constructed these rules? Who said that red octagons with white squiggles require that we should stop driving? For that matter, who said that permed mullets are not acceptable haircuts in metropolitan Brisbane in 2007? Who is the one who ensures that all these rules are followed?

Such insistence ("Only this way is the true way!") comes from a guarantor of the symbolic order. That is, a source from which all other authority derives its mandate. This is the authority figure that says, "Do it, because I said that you must do it and if you do not do it, I will enact violence upon you."

Sounds like a parent to me. Or a Hebrew deity. Or an American Presidency. This is the kind of moral consequence that we have learnt. It is the consequence that drives us, whether we realise it or not. There is an implicit fear in our actions, because we want to avoid the violence of moral consequence.

Now suppose something different. Suppose that you were living in a world in which there was no moral consequence. No parent to smack you. No police officer to imprison you. No American President to bomb you. What would you do? How would you behave?

This is the opportunity for genuine altruistic love. The kind of action that happens, not because of violent consequence from not doing good things, but which happens even if there are no consequences. This is what puts Christian altruistic love at odds with normal society. The right thing is done because of care and concern about the one to whom it is done. It is not done to avoid the violence of not doing it.

There is no one to guarantee that the symbols (actions, morals, etc.) of altruistic love are maintained. There is only a choice to make them happen. This is the challenge of real love - to do it for no reward.
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