Backstory (not necessary but definitely more interesting with some homework of reading the three links listed below):
Some of my favorite people in SexBlogLand are having interesting discussions about the ethical considerations of cheating. I think it started on Mandy's, then Tom commented. Then Emma made comment and posted on it. Now Tom has, too. If you go there, I would suggest you read the comments as interesting discussion continues there. I hope everyone keeps breathing.
I love bouncing off other blogs, especially when I feel a writing block. Tom and I have talked about how we do that for each other from time to time and I have done so with others. Thanks to my lawyer father, I love discussing ethics. I start to comment on my friends' sites and realize what I have to say is too long for anything other than a post. But I'm not even sure I want to devote a full post directly on the topic of "ethics of cheating" just yet....if ever.
But a discussion about "situational ethics" on Tom's blog particularly interests me. I think this is really what the discussion is about for me, anyway.
I thought that all morals and ethics were situational...or at least relative. Is there even one universal ethic? This would mean there is one Truth. Are we going to even start that discussion? Sex is such a fuzzy one to discuss, wayway too many gray lines, which is why it's such a juicy topic. I'm thinking of two stories I want to bring up and put out there that have nothing to do with the topic of cheating, but are about ethics, that, I might add, are on a topic that most people would generally have very little trouble discussing the ethics of because it's so extreme: Murder
The first thing I want to share is a story about some Buddhist monks. What I like about this story is that it's so paradoxical in so many ways that intrigue me, delight me and speak to my own code.
When most people think of Buddhism, they think of a peaceful Path. Most people would be surprised to hear that there was a group of monks long ago who were the most deadly assasins to have ever lived. The reason they were so good at what they did is that they had the belief that if they killed with no emotion they accrued no negative karma, but were merely serving as agents of karma. They were ruthless.
One day, a man came and killed the head Teacher. The others in the group made a pledge to kill the assasin.
Many years passed and no one had found the man. Finally one did. He looked at the assasin of his beloved teacher and made the move to cut the man's head off, giving thanks that he would finally complete the mission he had devoted his life to ten years before. He looked at the man, stopped, backed away and left without a word. He felt anger so did not kill the man.
The second topic holds more interesting questions for me. It's also very personal.
When I was in high school, I was an anti-abortion activist. Youngsters are so passionate. I was so into the whole "life" thing that I was a vegetarian and spread the word about the holocaust of abortion. I was probably the only anti-choice feminist on the planet. Since I believed it was murder, I understood why the anti-abortionists did what they did.
Over the years, I was "gifted" with three pregnancies, only one of which was even "semi-planned." (long story) I didn't want any children but an abortion never even entered my mind as a consideration. Women yelled at me for my perspectives on abortion when I was a midwife (I never brought the subject up, never tried to push my views on anyone, but if asked I would answer that I thought abortion should be illegal).
Years passed and my Spirituality underwent a huge transformation. Through various experiences and other kinds of learning, I discovered radically different things that rang true for me. My ideas about when life began stayed the same, but I developed different beliefs about life here on earth, death, choice, creating, karma, eternal life, souls, etc.
I came to understand that ethics weren't concrete....they come from religion and spiritual beliefs (whether the "religion" is: Atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Plato or other philosophical schools, Marxism or football*). Each thinks they own Truth. And while thinking one has found a concrete Truth is much more comfortable and feels safer that living in chaos, thinking one has the only truth is dangerous. It's what's causes all wars, both personal and global. And whether personal or global, both sides think they're "right."
I came to understand that if someone had a different spiritual belief than I did, they answered to a different set of ethics. And (according to my Path) that if I wanted my beliefs allowed, I had to extend that out and honor others' beliefs--no matter how uncomfortable I might feel about them in the moment.
And...according to my personal set of beliefs...not only am I required (by myself) to honor their beliefs, I am required to find a place to love (feel compassion for) them no matter what (which I fall way short of all the time, but I do try.) I sometimes don't agree with others' ethics...sometimes they make me sad...sometimes I get pissed...I always allow that they have the right to their beliefs and in the end, I let go of my need to be right. Because I can't be.
This base set of ethics is fierce inside me. I take it with me wherever I go and it influences everything I do. It's mine- I follow no one outside religion, dogma or Teacher. In fact, I constantly challenge everything....especially linear thinking.
With this ever evolving shift, my views on abortion changed (and did so long before the event discussed below).
To make this discussion really juicy I will share that I knew there was a good chance of getting pregnant, knew it was a mistake to have unprotected sex when I did (I knew I was close to ovulating) and went internally numb to making the "right" choice. There was absolutely no excuse for me getting pregnant. None. I had been a midwife, I know this stuff. It was a few years after my divorce, I knew I would not have another child and that this was the right thing. I went in at six weeks. As I wanted to hide nothing from myself, I demanded to see the live sonogram of the baby and his tiny beating heart. And then I had an abortion. I did it consciously, with prayer and love for the baby. I felt his loving spirit while I journeyed with him out of my body. But in the end, I killed him.
Is an abortion done by someone who feels it's murder the same ethically as one done by someone who doesn't believe life starts at conception?
Does conscious intent change the ethics of an action?
Can we make an assumption of intent or an ethical call by observing an outward action?
I doubt we would have much argument that in the heirarchy of "sins" and "ethical considerations" that murder is way up there in comparison to adultery, yes? I have never cheated on a husband but in my mind and by my personal set of ethics I have done murder and have, from day one, been totally at peace with my choice. I would do it again.
If even murder can get fuzzy, how in the heck can we begin to make any sense of sexual considerations?
Trying to define and delineate universal ethics makes me uncomfortable in that I keep having to ask: who gets to decide? Who has the last say? And who decides who decides and says who has the last say? In the case of harming someone...how can we know what anything does or is to another? How can we know anything with our little, limited vision? Haven't most of us (that have a few years behind us) found that the biggest challenges, the biggest heartaches were the ones that, in the end, brought the greatest gifts? It gets back, again for me, to a question of spirituality and our personal beliefs. Yes, it's relative. Maybe it's situational. Is there a difference between situational and relative?**
Cheating comes in many flavors and intents. My unique snowflake makes for different tweaks than others have everywhere I go. For me...because of my ongoing relationship with Truth, while I get uncomfortable when I hear of people outside of a hostage situation having partners and not telling the truth to their partners about it...I understand that I live a different spirituality than others do (probably way). And I have very different reasons for my discomfort than others would. I realize that my discomfort is alerting me to something going on deeper inside me. I lovingly sit with my discomfort that sometimes borders on judgment. I remember my judgments are about me (that old one finger out, three back thingie).
Why do I look at myself, taking the focus inside instead of outside me? It's valuable for me. It helps me find my way to God. And...in my world, it's none of my business how anyone else finds their way there. My only job is to try my best to keep on my own Path of ethics and to extend love....and then get back on the path when I lose it. ______________________________
* Yes, Religious Studies sees the correlation between sports and religion. It was a part of my studies.
**I'm thinking there is. To me, relativity would refer to a set of ethical considerations that would be consistently applied. They might be different than another's code, but would be universal for that person. Situational would apply more to a particular situation within a relative set of ethics.