Monday, November 15, 2010

Learning to act right (16)… “sounding a bit stupid”

Learning to act right (16)… "sounding a bit stupid"

Torrey Orton
Nov 15, 2010

If you've only got a hammer everything looks like a nail, and if it doesn't you treat it as one! Some ethical matters are invisible to us until we see them right. Without right seeing, right action is improbable. With right seeing right action is only possible. Sources of learning to see things rightly, as they are, unvarnished by preconception and prejudice, has been the heart of epistemology since Plato looked out of his cave and saw the light. In ethics, as much as science or art, the problem is that we can't easily see what we don't already know. This is not only a theoretical problem.

A good sign that someone is seeing anew, differently, as if for the first time, is the feeling of "sounding a bit stupid", as with my colleague below. So he earned an unexpected, and unintended, place in these annals and accepted the offer of a shift of domain with grace… a sign of potential for seeing anew. He was responding to an earlier post of mine on euthanasia and included the thinking breakthrough which opened the door to my views.

Hi, I think I run the risk of sounding a bit stupid with this, but here goes:

A few years ago I liked to play a game on my blackberry called "brickbreaker". It's a small version of a paddle/ball game. My high scores were typically around 8 to 10,000 points, and I never finished the series of challenges in the game.

Then one day, at Oslo airport, I started to think about what the purpose of the game was. For me, I was looking for the stripped back heart of the problem, a Zen approach if you like. What I realised was that the most basic aim of the game was to ensure I hit the ball with the paddle as often as possible; not to earn points, or to hit "bricks". In fact, those things were distractions. They almost took away from the game.

From that point I simply focused on that one aim, and, surprise surprise, I discovered that not only was the game a series of challenges that created a loop (ie, once a player finished level 33, the game went back to level 1 with the score intact) but that the high score was, in fact, without limit. From a high score of, at best, 10,000 points, I went on to give up and retire on 1,450,000, having worked through the series of challenges hundreds of times.

All through thinking about the game differently.

And that's what I love about your approach. When you strip back everything, why should choosing to end a life with dignity be a crime? Suicide is a crime, as is attempted suicide, I think. You take away religion and government, strip it right back, but you include personal responsibility to friends and family. It's such a clear assessment of the problem. The clearest I've read, and that's why I hope more people read it.

But you can't beat city hall, and you CERTAINLY can't beat God and those that believe in him/her. They have suckered us into believing that choosing death is wrong. But can they explain why it's wrong? It's an extension, in the Catholic Church at least, of the every sperm is sacred routine. If you ask why, it always comes back to God, and if god doesn't exist, they have a HUGE credibility problem.

There's a great scene in the old US series called Kung Fu, with David Carradine, where he is walking with a companion and they see a man about to jump off a bridge to his death. Caine's companion says "Shouldn't we save him" and Caine says "How can you know what he's experiencing, how can you say that death may not be the best thing for him" or words to that effect.

Any anti euthanas-ist who has ever taken a pain killer should be ashamed of themselves.

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