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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Catharsis

Today’s Author Prompt:

She sang a song I’d never heard, and yet it felt so familiar.

White-hot frustration made me want

To throw things, to shatter glass,

To rip apart paper,

To rip apart myself.

Not knowing

What is in store for you

Is infinitely worse than

Dealing with what has happened.

So I picked up my hands,

Itching to hurt,

Itching for hurt,

And let them feel around,

Like feelers on a fish from the deep

Or maybe the blind.

They found my guitar.

And she sang a song I’d never heard, and yet it felt so familiar.

http://todaysauthor.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/write-now-prompt-for-june-14-2013/

 

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.

The Pebble

Daily Prompt: Weaving the Threads

Draft a post with three parts, each unrelated to the other, but create a common thread between them by including the same item — an object, a symbol, a place — in each part.

He couldn’t take it anymore; he had gotten through depression because of her and had stopped cutting because of her. He was a new man because of her. And she’d said no. How could she? She’d told him he was an amazing person, and that anyone would die to be with him, and he’d believed her; believed her thinking she was indirectly saying something to him. Well, it turned out all women were the same. Actually, all people were the same. They kept the good ones around, the funny ones around, and the ones that made them smile, but always as a friend. Nothing more. The perfect ones, on the other hand….they didn’t even have to bat an eyelid or say a kind word to be thought perfect romance material. What did she see in him anyway? Neal reached his favorite pond-side spot beneath the willow and kicked a smooth, round pebble into the pond, and stared at the ripples until they faded out.

x

The pebble hit his head with a thonk. Sammy, annoyed, flicked the tail of the tadpole closest him. “Ow, that hurt!”

Doubled over with laughter, Rick yelled back over his shoulder, “Wasn’t me, mate!” He shook his head, grinning, and swam ahead, joining the others in their race to Algae Cave.

Sammy scowled, falling to the back of the race. He jetted down to the bottom of the pond to get a closer look at the culprit.

The pebble was smooth, round, and whiter than any rock he’d ever seen – even whiter than the one Marty had shown them in show-and-tell last week, calling it the whitest rock around. Well, he’d show Marty.

Just them, he thought he heard a faint whisper. He looked around, but didn’t see anyone there. He frowned and checked once more; still no one. Just as Sammy gave up and turned to leave, he heard the same whisper, only louder – it was coming from the direction of the rock. He swam back to the rock and circled it. On the other side, half buried under the rock, was Katy, the cute goldfish from school.

“Katy!” he exclaimed, and ran to tug her out.

“It’s no use Sammy,” she sighed, tears in her eyes. “It won’t budge.”

“Well, I’ll make it,” retorted Sammy, setting his jaw in determination. After a few fruitless tugs, he looked around for something, anything to use.

“Don’t leave me here!” Katy pleaded.

“I’ll be right back,” Sammy promised, and swam back, true to his word, with a bit of bark he’d found buried in the mud. Using it as a lever, he put all his weight on it and, inch by inch, lifted the rock up enough for Katy to struggle her way free. Sammy shrugged. I guess Pond Physics 101 really wasn’t a waste of time.

x

“Oops, sorry Ver,” Mark muttered, as Veronica’s favorite bracelet went flying through the air into the pond they’d been picnicking by.

Veronica’s eyes widened in shock as her favorite bracelet sank to the bottom of the pond. “Mark! How could you?” she cried, running to the edge of the pond and kneeling, desperately trying to peer inside and find the bracelet. “Go get it!”

“C’mon, you know I don’t like water,” Mark said coolly. “It was just a bracelet anyway. Didn’t whatsisname, your friend, give it to you? I’ll buy you another one; now come on.” He turned to leave. “I’m gonna go start the car.”

Veronica’s eyes blurred with tears, remembering the day she’d recieved the bracelet. “…not for anything, really. It’s just….it’s been a year since I met you, and I’m who I am now thanks to you, so….I wanted you to have this,” he’d said, smiling at her with that smile only he had that lighted up his eyes. She turned her eyes to the pool, but held back. She couldn’t swim, never had been able to. She looked back to the pool, it seemed leagues deep and really scary; who knew what lived inside? But her mind conjured up an image of him giving her the bracelet again, and she knew she couldn’t turn away.

Taking a deep breath, she plunged in. Fighting for breath, she searched the muck for her bracelet. Her lungs were constricting now and she prayed for help. Just then, her fingers bumped against something hard. Out of breath, Veronica grabbed the fistful of muck around it and came up, struggling for breath. Breaking the surface, she bobbed with the water and opened her fist. She saw a pebble in her hand and almost cried in frustration. Then she saw the bracelet, somehow twined around the pebble; the pebble had kept the bracelet anchored. Just like Neal always kept me anchored. She climbed out of the water and headed for the car. She had an announcement to make.

In response to:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/daily-prompt-weaving/

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

Epiphany

I was walking out on the porch with my mother today as she caught me up on several months’ worth of news, and I her. Nine o’clock at night and the breeze was deliciously electrifying, and the dark perfect for confidences. I prattled on about my life for a while before letting her take over; I got to hear about everything from housing developers, deception and lawsuits to the Koreans who’d moved in next door. Looking out at the purplish-maroon, almost-starless sky, it hit me that this was life – there was always someone to catch up with, someone who wanted to share news and some time with you. You hop from setting to setting in life, always with different groups of people; first you’re with the one, then you switch partners, almost like a lifelong dance.

It struck me earlier in the day that this was what liberation and adulthood meant – learning that everything is transient – and not being bothered by it; reveling in it almost, reveling at your capability for adaptation and enjoyment and understanding of life and people, and their need for space and change; and appreciation and acceptance of yourself as an individual, not dependent on anyone but yourself; the ability to look optimistically at life and take advantage of every situation you’re vaulted into with a leap.

Just today’s little epiphany.