Sunday, May 12, 2013


Ethics are things of which too much should not be expected.

Ethics are often wise and kind and based on some experience, but they are also boundaries that will invariably be crossed.

Ethics are the best of what might otherwise be a bad bargain.

Ethics are what anyone might do for another.

Morality is what anyone might do when no one was looking.

Anyway, those were some random thoughts when I received in email containing an article from An Olive Branch -- an organization dedicated to mitigating or perhaps 'resolving' conflicts within spiritual organizations. The table of contents to the May 2013 newsletter article read:
  1. Safer Sanghas
  2. Bylaws: Steps YOU Can Take
  3. What Does "Fiduciary" Mean?
  4. Meet Our Governance Consultant
  5. Dealing with the Aftermath of Sexual Misconduct in Religous Organizations
  6. Learning How to Talk in a Conflict
The topic is placed in the world of Buddhism, but might as well be placed elsewhere as well. (I apologize for not providing a direct link to the article: I can't figure out how to do it short of subscribing to the newsletter -- something which I have no desire to do.)

I received the article, I imagine, because of my past involvement in some very nasty and unethical shit. (Eg., here and here.) The raking confusion and horror and pain of it was, and often remains, very real. The blood was red then and the blood is red now. What scabs there are feel tentative and half-baked at best. Like the Vatican-sponsored sexual abuse scandal, words like "solution" and "healing" and "closure" have a self-serving and disrespectful scent. Ick.

And yet, "we must do something." There is a very deep need to "make sense" of great horror. And one of the ways to attempt that is to deconstruct the scene and remortar the bricks so that ... so that ... so that then we can say we have done "something." But blood is red and it is all just the best of a bad bargain.

Isn't it all a bit like the shredding of the heart when an injured child rushes into a mother's arms, tears of pain rushing down his or her face, and cries out with both incomprehension and complete faith, "make it stop hurting, mommy!"? And wouldn't the mother do anything -- anything! -- in her power to do precisely what her child begged for? The child weeps and the mother weeps as well because ...

There is Mercurochrome and there are Band-Aids and if all else fails, there is a trip to the doctor ... but to fulfill the make-it-stop-hurting-mommy plea ... ah! ... this is life and life is not in the pain business any more than it is in the relief business. Life is the redness of blood. It is more interesting than the accusations of "indifference."

Don't get me wrong: I like ethics and acknowledge their salutary effects. But I don't think those effects need to blinker anyone's vision. Band-Aids are important. They make an effort to protect and attend to the wounds at hand. To ignore them is foolish. But to praise them is probably too much.

Band-Aids don't heal.

Only life can do that.

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