To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I think sometimes people make a distinction between "legal" and "moral" that simply isn't there. They tell you that you can't legislate morality. Well, of course you can. Murder is immoral, isn't it? Isn't it also illegal? It's wrong to steal. It's even wrong to cheat on your taxes, because you're making other people pay your share as well as their own.

I don't think law-abiding people refrain from acts like murder and theft solely because they happen to be illegal. I think they refrain because they're wrong.

What you can't legislate, sadly, is intelligence. But you can go a little way toward that, for example, by making it unlawful to transport a baby in a car unless it is in a carseat.

Erin says she thinks that Heather MacDonald, who suggests that the supposed pandemic of rape on college campuses could be drastically reduced if it were explained to girls that they should refrain from stupid behavior, is a pragmatist rather than a moralist. I think morals originate from pragmatism, actually.

Monnie asked her readers if God is a vengeful God.

I had a conversation with a Muslim coworker once. He was contemplating an interest-only loan for a house. This was before the housing crisis and I'd never heard of such a thing. It took me a moment to realize he was asking my opinion about the moral rightness rather than the financial advisability. I had never thought a Muslim would ask a non-Muslim's opinion about things like that - prejudice on my part, I admit. Anyway, he had almost enough money saved up to buy the house outright and what he wanted to do was to lock in the price of the house, pay this interest-only thing but regard it as rent, and then when he was ready, just pay cash and buy the house. Because Muslims aren't supposed to take loans that pay interest. He wanted to know what I thought about that

My first thought was that you can't fool God. He knows your heart.

"I know that," Mustapha said. "I'm not trying to fool God."

Then, I said, you should ask yourself what the point is here. Is God trying to keep you from getting in over your head? A loan that piles up interest too fast can be impossible to pay off and it can be a real bondage. Is this the issue? If so, and if you have every reason to believe that you can handle this thing and it will work out the way you think, then you should probably go ahead, I told him.

Because I don't think the rules are about God setting us up so he can smite us when we deviate from the path. I think the rules are there to keep us from getting hurt. It's the same with morals. People who refrain from casual sex with multiple partners can cross all kinds of unpleasant experiences off their list. People who refrain from gossip don't have workplace and family drama blow up in their faces - or at least, not from things they've said behind people's backs that got out. There's a reason for all those "thou shalt nots". One can heed them, or one can learn the hard way. Why re-invent the wheel over and over and over?

I remember that when F was very small she had a horrifying habit of running headlong through the house with her arms thrown behind her. Of course she fell and hurt herself all the time. I asked her repeatedly not to run in the house. Go outside and run. Still she did it, and she came to me howling with her bumps and bruises. One day I kind of lost my temper.

"Do you see me falling down all the time and hurting myself?"

"No," she bawled.

"What about Daddy? Do you see him falling down and hurting himself all the time?"


"Why do you suppose that is? Do you think it's because WE DON'T RUN IN THE HOUSE?"


"One of these days you are going to figure out for yourself why it is that I keep asking you not to run in the house. And that will be a happy day, because I won't have to listen to you crying because you fell down and hurt yourself."

Epiphany. The running in the house stopped forthwith.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments about your neck." Proverbs 1:7-9

1 comment:

Nuri said...

Hi! This is the first time I visit your blog, and it's funny because we were discussing a topic at that is close to your reflections here... very interesting. I'd agree with you!