As I read news that “Providing water to dying immigrants in desert is a crime, feeding the homeless is a crime” … while torture is legal, even a national policy. There has been no uproar, no outrage, no international sanctions. And guess what, these things are happening, not in communist countries or dictatorships, but in the West, the “christian democracies”!
I am an atheist, and ex-christian, an ex- catholic to be precise. I remember roughly there are some teachings that I still respect and observe.
First: Feeding the hungry
Second: Giving drink to the thirsty
Third: Providing clothing to the ragged (clothing the naked)
Fourth: Visiting the sick and the damned (prisoner)
Fifth: sheltering the homeless
Sixth: buying back freedom for the slaves or ransom the captive
Seventh: Burying the dead
These moral obligations are exactly the same with those of Buddhists.
Where are they now? What has happened to us?
This is the human story in the way I learned.
Before homo sapien sapiens invented the concept of “human being”, like every living thing, we had lived by the law of natural selection, survival of the fittest. We would abandon our weak, unfit and sick off-springs, and kill our own members in order to survive when needed. We all would follow the simple circle of life: Being born, trying everything to survive … until death. Nothing else. Life has no meaning at all.
Then somehow we came out of the caves, we started to look beyond the natural world, beyond the force of natural selection toward something, somewhere that not only can we live together in harmony but our lives can be more than just a mere survival against death in vain, but a survival in a meaningful way before we die. That’s where Homo sapien sapiens become human beings. We decided to live against the force of natural selection in order to be Humane, a human being. That’s us. We, the human beings.
In this aspiration, in this sense, Human being is not an animal, a living thing but an ideal we created so that we voluntarily aspire to, look up to fulfill our lives in it intrinsically. Since then, we invented the ideal way of being a human being: morality.
In this moral way of being, a “human being” must try to defy not only the force of nature but any force that goes against morality. We do not abandon our unfit children and our unfit fellow human beings to the force of natural selection. We try our best to care for them, to give them the best quality of living time we could.
This morality we invented, for thousands of years, has been transformed and expanded and extended from within family to neighbors, communities, and beyond. Even though not every one embraces this moral way of being, but subconsciously it has been a single driving force in keeping all of us away from falling back to the force of nature in order to build human societies.
For those who embrace this morality, We do this not because we are forced to do against our will, we do this to honor ourselves as human being. It’s an intrinsic value we invented to give our short lives a meaning. We even voluntarily sacrifice our own well being, our comfort, our own lives for others in certain extreme difficulty situation to keep our morality, our humanity, our being as a human being intact.
We do it not because someone else will judge us or/and punish/reward us, but because we intrinsically judge and punish/reward ourselves. We do it because it’s right. Because it makes us and keep us being humane. We want to be humane. A true human being, a life form with meaning that we invented and give it to ourselves against nature selection force.
Morality is the single best, most important and highest, and greatest invention of all that we have ever invented. This single invention has guided and defined who we are and who we will be. We can live as human beings without all others of our inventions but morality. The day we abandon our morality, we deny our lives a meaning, we will become anything but human being.
Morality is our personal choice, our sovereign decision , without which we are nothing but wild animals. Don’t let the State and its governments take away our humanity, our morality ./.
Update: Thanks to our friend larryzb, I looked up in English source for the “Corporal Works of Mercy” and made the correction. I knew these “teachings” in Vietnamese language as a young boy! Oh boy! more than half of a century have passed since I left that path, and that’s all I could remember so I just directly translated them to my second language. Thank you all for your generosity in toleration of my “Venglish!”