A few days ago I wrote that the essence of morality lies in valuing life, since we tend to do right by what we care about most – which is another way of saying that real morality starts with love. But while this describes the what, it does not address the how. Where does our sense of value come from? How can we value ourselves more – as the basis of integrity – when self-loathing is so much the norm?
What makes it even more difficult is a principle I’ve noticed in my own nature, and which I believe to be universal: that love cannot be governed by will. We simply do not choose our interests.
This principle would seem to suggest that morality is not a matter of choice – but that isn’t quite what I mean. A better way to put it is that one cannot develop his morality directly. Any attempt to do so involves duplicity, as we start patterning our actions differently from our interests. We do one thing, but in our hearts we want to do another. Yet the morality I dream of begins in the heart, not in the mind; it does not require an inner conflict – since I believe love cannot be fostered by any kind of violence.
This means that true morality – which proceeds from one’s inward being – must be developed indirectly. There is another variable we can tweak, and which is subject to our will. And if our heart is driven by what we love most, this variable must be: to look deeper into the nature of things, until we discover a more universal love.
First of all, it strikes me as very odd that we cannot choose what we love. Love is such an amazing source of energy and motivation – it allows us at times to completely transcend our limitations. A person in love is devoted to his object; he draws on reservoirs of energy that the will has no access to. Love, in effect, ignites our being and makes our potential come alive.
It’s almost as if human beings are a kind of appliance: once we find the right socket to plug into, everything changes. We enter a new realm of being. I think we were designed to operate on this level, and that the meager energies we possess without it are only there to help us to get there.
Once we encounter this torrent of love, it is in our interest to channel and heighten the experience, much like focusing light into a beam. Only if a person is unaware that this can be achieved does he ignore it. Otherwise, why content one’s self with less, when more can be had? If we know the first level of something is good, and the second level is better, who will not reach for it if he knows it’s close?
That is the role of morality, I believe: a set of guidelines to enhance our connection to love. Take the morality of an engineer. He uses math and measurement to decide whether a certain design is “good” or not. He defines goodness by the fitness of the end product; but only if cares about that product will he strive to use the guidelines to their utmost; only if cares can they act to enhance his connection through the perfection of the final result. And when it’s done, and done well, he will experience the joy of using it for its intended purpose. In this way, the refinement of his actions bonds him with his goal.
Since morality is aimed at the beloved, we need to see our goal clearly in order to make proper use of what is moral. The variable we can control is our vision. What is it that we want? Have we looked everywhere to find it?
For example, a person may look for someone to deeply love, but will alone cannot manifest that person, not even among those he knows, since will-power does not determine love – and without love there is no basis for that kind of relationship. He may act (pretend morality) toward someone he knows, as if doing so will create what he seeks, but this is a lie. In order for genuine actions of love to appear (real morality), the beloved must be found. Since love cannot be changed, what he must do is to seek out more people – to increase his vision by discovering more possibilities. Doing this is well within his power, and only by operating at that level can he ever hope to act honestly as one in love.
I think spiritual morality is no different. We possess a set of guidelines for living whose purpose can only be reasonably defined in terms of the Beloved. Without that essential piece, they are just actions serving as an end in themselves. Find the Beloved, however, and they become extremely pragmatic, being most effective ways for us to gain closer proximity.
So the “how”, from all of this, is in effect education: to sharpen our vision; see more clearly, more deeply, more broadly. There exist certain things, revealed in nature – whether it be objects, people, ideas, feelings – that are able to engender a spontaneous, radical response in the human spirit. Morality comes into play both at the beginning to help us find it, and afterwards to draw us nearer.
Furthermore, I believe – from reading certain mystical texts – that the whole of life is much more than we take it to be. In this sense, education means unwrapping the veils that obscure its true nature, until we find that the Beloved is all. Which is also the only way that human beings can ever act morally towards all with honesty.