Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stop lights and parking meters

Have you ever driven through a stop sign?  Uh, I have, definitely a couple of times and maybe one other time, but the truth is, is that I was afraid to go back and check after I heard that blaring horn behind me.  Oops? So, after that I tried to watch for stop signs. Good idea, eh? I never took driver's ed as a teenager, so I learned a few things the hard way. 

I remember someone saying that they have found that in their experience there are two kinds of people in the world, rule keepers and rule breakers. I must confess I'm probably in the latter category, lol, but you might not guess it immediately to look at me.  I guess I grew up taking care of myself a lot from a young age, and I had to question things. I honestly don't know if I'd be here today, or be a grounded person if I hadn't. I am reasonably grounded, teenage driving experiences aside. 

But I have struggled with knowing where to put the lines as an adult. I'm one of those people that has a hard time saying no, or at least I always did, and life can be hard on people that either don't know how to take no for an answer, or people who don't know how to protect themselves, as has sometimes been true for me.  But I'm learning. 

But you know something else I'm also learning, as I'm learning that boundaries are healthy, is that there is a similar dialogue that is ongoing in the public square. Where to put that stop sign, should there be a stop sign? Do we really need parking meters or speeding limits even, or is it all a tax grab?

I remember having this discussion with a secular friend of mine years ago, where he was saying that nothing is absolute, that everything breaks down.  I think the question he was asking, was if someone had to steal a loaf of bread because their kids were hungry, would that be wrong?  The answer that I've been given to that question is a scenario of that person being in court, and the judge looks at the man and says you're guilty, and fines him. But the story doesn't end there. The judge then reaches into his own pocket, pays the fine and continues to look around the court room, while pointing his finger, towards people representing segments of society and telling them that they are all guilty, for putting that person in that position in the first place. 

The thing is, is that with relativism, if we were to get rid of standards altogether, then where do we begin?  Where's the anchor?  Where are the stars to guide us, if there is no fixed point?

So here's what I see. We have a culture, that looks at some people and says, you guys are backward, because you are insisting on putting stop signs where there is no need for a stop sign.  Morality is relative, don't you know?  While at the same time, those friendly folks insist that there should be stop signs where they demand stop signs.  Like on beautiful, life sustaining old trees for example. But I thought you said that morality is relative?  Which is it?

It's ancient history now I know, but when the whole thing with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was going on, and people were saying, hey it's no big deal.  I'm not commenting on what should have happened there politically, but the question I was left with, was why would people expect that someone would be honest with them, strangers, if obviously that person wasn't being honest with the people who were closest to him?

In other words, I don't buy the argument that morality is relative in some ways and objective in other ways.  Where do we put the stop signs and the parking meters and the speeding limits, or do we put them there at all?  I don't know.  Should some things be personal rather than societal concerns or responsibilities? I might be inclined to think so. I don't have all the answers, I'm just saying that before we take away a stop sign as an individual or as a society, we might do well to consider the car crashes that could be happening behind us, that we don't stop to consider because we never turn around, and so we never see.

thanks for listening,

M.A. Harvey

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