Science, Fifty Shades of Grey and Morality

Daily Prompt: Morality Play

June 24, 2013

Where do your morals come from — your family? Your faith? Your philosophical worldview? How do you deal with those who don’t share them, or derive them from a different source?

[http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/daily-prompt-morality-play/]

morals  plural of mor·al (Noun)

Noun
  1. A lesson, esp. one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
  2. A person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
Synonyms
morality – moral – ethics – mores – morale

Growing up, my source of moral values was my family, but that’s a no-brainer, given that obeying and making them proud is ingrained in our minds as our duty from a very young age. As I grew up and met those outside my home, others with conflicting or perhaps different worldviews, I reevaluated the parameters of my personal definition of morality, and I continue to do so even today.

As a student of science, if there’s one thing I have learned, it is to absorb information unbiased, consider all the possible alternatives, and then settle for the most rational one; as the information available keeps increasing, to keep adjusting the parameters of my belief  system.

That’s the attitude I approach morality with. The very definition of moral (definition 2) implies that morality is individual-specific. I base my sense of morality mostly on common sense; if it’s hurting someone, it must be wrong on some level, and conversely, if no one is hurt by it, it couldn’t possibly by entirely evil.

I believe the reason there are so many scuffles taking place over moral outrage is because people tend to be heavily biased. I’m no exception either; the best example I can come up with is the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey series. Hearing about the plotlines, I developed an immediate dislike to both the series. I said insulting things about the books left and right and felt no regret doing it. I thought people who read the book were fools. Then someone made a comment in passing about a literary preference of mine, and I immediately snapped at them, telling them “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” then immediately felt ashamed of myself.

I took it upon myself to read both the series with as open a mind as I could muster, and, although my opinion of the series remained almost the same, I did find certain things to appreciate along the way. I learnt things I hadn’t known previously, and some of my stances softened.My worldview broadened a bit and I had to concede that if I were someone else, in different surroundings, perhaps my outlook would be different.

That lesson is what I take with me when I consider morality. No matter what my opinion, if I take the trouble to listen without bias, I will undoubtedly take home something important at the end of the day. And as far as tolerance goes, I go by the adage: Your yard ends where mine begins. It’s the perfect ideal to judge by, whether it be a question life, liberty, morality, or even actual yards.

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Of Anime, Newton and Philosophy

So I finally got around to watching Full Metal Alchemist, often called the best anime of all time. Full Metal Alchemist is set in an alternate universe where the world and its power distribution is decided not by machinery, but by alchemy, the transmutation of base elements into pure ones, such as gold, and then into the elixir of life. It follows two adolescent brothers who attempt human transmutation, fail, and pay with their bodies, spending the rest of the series attempting to regain their entire human forms.

It’s an engagingly constructed anime, and definitely lived up to the hype. However, what made the anime rise above and really make an impact, at least on my mind, was because of the deep, yet basic, question they brought up, forcing us viewers to think about it.

Every episode began with these lines:

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of equivalent exchange.

In  the end however, they question this. Does everything necessarily have a price? And, each time we pay a price, do we necessarily gain anything in return? Infants that die young pay with their lives. What have they gained in return? Most people studying for competitive examinations put an equal amount of effort into their preparations, but different levels of talent are born everywhere. This cannot be made to co-exist with the Law of Conservation, or Equivalent Exchange. Clearly, the price you pay means nothing in and of itself. So where does that leave us?

My first reaction was to bristle and say we at least gain experience, which must count for something, but then FMA replied, saying that the Law of Conservation is merely meant to keep those who pay happy, content in the knowledge that they must have gained something, whatever it may be. Something in that ignited this ever-present vein of pessimism in me, always lurking just beneath the surface. Why put in any effort at all if, at worst, the results are predetermined and, at best, things beyond our control play the greatest part in our endeavors? And the answer came to me just as fast.

Can you imagine not doing anything about it, just waiting around for the results of….what? We would never be satisfied letting things turn out the way they will. We, as human beings, have an innate sense of self-preservation, the need to make sure as far as possible, at least from our own side, that we have the best chance of succeeding in anything we may attempt. That’s who we are.

The Law of Conservation lets us believe, as we so badly want to, that life is fair; that anyone can achieve anything provided they put in the effort or pay the price required; it means nothing is impossible. It is the foundation of civilization today, the law of karma, the basis of trade and pay and money. You sow what you reap. Every action, as Newton said, has an equal and opposite reaction. If that fundamental law were to be disproven, how would courts of law exist, how would society’s standards be upheld in the absence of the belief that there is a objective price to be paid for every action?

So now I believe that not everyone is created equal, that we are not all capable of the same things. There probably isn’t any objective price for any given gain. But maybe, by paying the right price, we can do anything we want to to the best of our abilities.

Perfect Weather

Your Daily Theme for May 24, 2013

 
Photo prompt: Write a poem or story inspired by the scenario in this image.
 

Ice-cold, crisp weather,

Perfect  weather

For the mood I am in.

Looking at the four lines etched out behind me

And the past few feet, just one;

The white expanse ahead of me

suddenly longer.

The milestones suddenly seem insignificant;

A jumble of numbers and words

In a different tongue,

In a different time.

The safety of the fence just behind me –

I can turn back still,

Except I can’t.

I wonder if they will

Keep a light burning for me

As long as they will for each other.

Ice-cold, crisp weather,

Perfect  weather

For the mood I am in.

 

Link to my poem on Figment:

http://figment.com/books/644705-Perfect-Weather