28 October 2004

I've finally figured out my strange attraction to pious people, or perhaps more appropiately stated: people who exude an outward appearance of piety. Men in yarmulkas, women in traditional Amish dress, etc. It's this environmental ethics class, that is teaching me more about morality than the study of any religion ever has.

Relationships based purely on utility are self-serving and empty. Frienship should not be utility based, but ethically based. One of the most worthwhile goals in life is to purue meaningful relationships, based not on what we get from them, but on our admiration of the other person's moral character. I think Thoreau was getting at this in A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers, in writing about his relationship with his brother. Some of the other philosophers we've discussed in class have said this too, I can never remember their names.

I'm not given to drawing on Thoreau for inspiration, so don't write me off as another transcendental, romantic halfwit just yet. When I reflect on the people I have chosen (family being a given) to love most in my life I think of Mac, my partner, and my closest friend Beth. I've never taken the time to think about it before, but I deeply admire both of their moral characters. They are the most giving, selfless people I know. They make me want to be a better person, and that makes each relationship so valuable.

Developing meaningful relationships, devoting oneself to learning a skill or activity, developing knowledge, etc.: these are the things we should do with a life. The director's of Groundhog's Day starring Bill Murray, came up with the same answers.

So my attraction to pious appearing people seems to stem from this yearning to live the good life, to develop myself. I'm not exactly sure how this is not self-serving and egoistical? Maybe there are higher and lower forms of egoism: being friends with someone who drives a nice car and throws big parties might be a lower form of self-servitude than being friends with someone who's an innately good human being and who's goodness might somehow rub off on me. (And these don't have to be mutually exclusive sets).

So what do these good people get from being friends with me? It seems like their will always be a disconnect: if we could quantify morality, one person would always score higher, so how what would they get from being friends with someone of lower moral character? (Maybe someone of higher moral character doesn't have this lowly egoistical worry.)

And looking at displayed symbols of organized religion seems like an oddly, antiquated way of going about finding people of high moral charcter. Strangely enough I don't find myself attracted at all to people with crucifixes around their necks, or WWJD bracelets. Maybe my own cynecism. Maybe I'm just too close to it, and the symbols of other religous traditions hold more mystery. Ahh, there it is again. Our attraction to the mysterious, and I've already written on that (18 October 2003.)

It's a beautiful day in Ithaca. The bannana trees in the botanical garden have been given a reprieve from their painfully slow and alien death.