Friday, April 17, 2015

Learning to act right (50)… Better not look down…

Torrey Orton

April 17, 2015


…says BB King in the song: “You better not look down if you want to keep on flying…put the hammer down, it’s full speed ahead”. Here’s the whole thing:


I've been around and I've seen some things
People moving faster than the speed of sound
Faster than the speeding bullet
People living like Superman
All day and all night
And I won't say if it's wrong or if it's right
I'm pretty fast myself
But I do have some advice to pass along
Along in the chorus of this song

Better not look down, if you want to keep on flying
Put the hammer down, keep it full speed ahead
Better not look back, or you might just wind up crying
You can keep it moving, if you don't look down


… Which came to mind as I was reflecting on my inability to give validity to those in developmental stages different from mine, people who, unlike BB, I want to tell are wrong. Or more saliently, I want to prevent them from doing wrong to others in the name of their right. In many instances it doesn’t matter. My irritation passes like the discomfort - not a lot!! - of a cool breeze on a warm night. However, when confronted with repeatedly immovable objects like the anti-abortionists at the Fertility Control Clinic, and the shameless fools pretending to govern us, my irritation is never far off rage.


My model for correct behaviour in these circumstances is Ken Wilber’s recommendation in his A Theory of Everything (Shambala, 2000) that “Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody - including me – has some important pieces of truth, and all those pieces need to be honoured…” The implications of this are massive for everyone and lead me to the view that  those more advanced, educated, gifted, successful and powerful have an obligation to honour the truths of those less well-endowed in any of those frames.


In my mind’s internal dialogue on matters of ethics at the Fertility Control Clinic, I can formulate relatively easily an appreciation of the position which the catholic anti-abortionist fraternity hold. It is roughly this: all human life is infinitely valuable and so deserves de facto whatever help we can offer it to exist and persist. I first encountered this view in the mouth of a long-term friend devoted to social justice 50+ years ago. He was certainly not Catholic and scarcely religious.


At the time it held no practical implications for me, though the mantra stuck, having acquired in the interim some passengers/accomplices like the therapeutic notion of unconditional positive regard and its everyday behavioural limbs like respectful disagreement, not playing the man and such appreciative tactics. He still holds it close to himself to this day. I have moments of doubt. The clinic prompts them.


What makes my self-imposed obligation a trial is that any of us, at whatever developmental stage we are in, are circumscribed by that fact in two respects: one, that’s as far as we’ve gotten in whatever developmental sequence we are in and so that’s as far as we can see; and, two, we need to feel that it is the truth in a sense sufficient to stand the winds of rejection from those we’ve left behind and the zephyrs of enticement from those above or in the neighbouring paddock suggesting we really haven’t gotten there yet (where they are of course in their respective certainties). Both breezes suck out energy and, so, enflame the defences of the self – the inward looking self-regard of the uncertain.


I could approach these anti-abortion folks with an attempt to establish my credentials of empathy by noticing they are in the field of preserving life which is under attack in many ways. These attacks come most unavoidably into play at the boundaries of life – birth and death. Hence, the armies of night and light arrayed around the entries to those two boundary states – anti-abortionists/pro-choicers and the natural deathers / euthanasiasts. Also at play in the fields crossing these boundaries are the life scientists and artificial intelligencers. The effects are disruption of boundaries, a process which once developed enough leads to degeneration of being, as childhood abuse does so clearly, whence flow the twin streams of suicide and homicide – both expressions of hopeless/helpless rage.


So, now to the boundary: when is an abortion a better choice than full term delivery? When the conditions into which birth will be made are so perilous as to ensure that the early steps in life and many thereafter (most of childhood) will be plagued with life-destroying potential on the best science of abuse outcomes. These conditions are both natural (birth defects, etc.) and institutional (families, schools, churches…) and we know enough about minimally supportive institutional conditions to know that they fail at rates better than chance conditions (from an ethical viewpoint – namely that no failure of intentional behaviour is good enough for a good enough life). Who is to decide when the conditions are adequate is a fine task from which we can exclude the agents and apologists of the various key institutions until they can guarantee that their respective institutions will not blight the lives of their participants. That is, in the case of child rearing, the prospective parents, and where the parental relationship is dubious, the prospective mothers should be able to decide. Our law now provides this should.


There is a similar argument for euthanasia, and against it.


The Hogpi’s trade on the life is any level of living fallacy in their street arguments and their theoretical ones, too. Namely that a vital embryo is a viable one and so a life - which it ain’t until 20+ weeks - and they don’t work thru the argument that viability on both ends of the life spectrum is massively distorted by science, whose benefits are inequitably distributed, which they’d acknowledge if they thought about it in this context, but don’t…


In the background lies the great paradox: that prospective parents can with a little attention mostly prevent unwanted children from being conceived, yet they often do not take that care. Otherwise a major proportion of those seeking abortion would never need to present. But then, the same adults drive while intoxicated and party when drunk and their demises are noted with the language of world changing human drama – tragedy, amazing, loving…. – which they certainly aren’t. All artefacts of banality?


“…What I am saying is that when one form of being is more congruent with the realities of existence, then it is the better form of living for those realities. And what I am saying is that when one form of existence ceases to be functional for the realities of existence then some other form, either higher or lower in the hierarchy, is the better form of living….” Dr Clare W. Graves


We are in times when many realities are in disarray and so the claim that any level of development is more appropriate than another is hard to sustain, but the desire to feel comfortable in my current stage is strong enough to maintain my rage. Maybe I’m just not accepting myself.


If only I could just “not look down”!!

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