Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Role for Wisdom in American Jurisprudence

An edited portion of this article was published by
Technorati on 25 March 2010. To see all my Technorati articles, click Lifestyle in the Contents listing on the sidebar.

Back in Solomon's day, judges were lauded for their wisdom. Not so today.

Take the lesbian prom case out of Itawamba County, Mississippi, for example. School officials canceled this years soiree when they learned that lesbian Constance McMillen and her girlfriend intended to attend as a couple.

The Federal Judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson, used a procedural gimmick to split the baby, so to speak, ruling in favor of the ACLU's argument that tolerance and the "Equal Protection" clause of the 14th amendment dictate that McMillen and date be allowed to attend the school-sponsored prom. But he refused to provide any relief until after a trial on the matter, to be scheduled after April 2nd, when the prom was to take place.

Parents of students at the school sponsored a private dance, officially unaffiliated with the school, which the Equal Protection clause does not reach. It only applies to government-sponsored activities. The decision to scrap the school-sponsored prom remains in force.

Some politicians enjoy proclaiming that the United States is a country founded on the "Rule of Law." That means that judges are duty bound to apply the law blindly, without regard to whether it is wise.

Thus, the judge in the McMillen case can't decide, as he apparently wanted to, that in his opinion as a duly appointed judge--selected because he had lived a long time, been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, lived his life well, garnered the respect of his community--that it was simply unwise to run a school dance this way. So he was forced to resort to procedural trickery to obtain the same result.

Because in this country, judges are not allowed to apply wisdom in their rulings. They are selected for their knowledge of the law and are expected to rule on that basis alone.

In other words, our country is founded on the rule of law as opposed to the rule of wisdom.

Mind the Gap

It isn't just wisdom that's a problem here. It's also philosophy in general. With the institution of the 1st amendment, the Founding Fathers created a philosophy void in American governance, removing the philosophy (called theology) that religion provided without substituting anything in its place (see also Texas School Board Demonstrates Need for Guiding Principles in Education).

But society without a stated philosophy will settle into a de facto philosophy, a process that happens over time. Without a governing philosophy, the the de facto philosophy will be that of the majority. The philosophy of the vast majority of people these days is Aristotelianism.

Aristotelianism lacks any basis on which to establish ideals. The union of man and woman is not an ideal but simply a lifestyle choice on equal footing with all other lifestyle choices. So you will find yourself out of bounds if you want to teach your children by upholding the man/woman relationship to the exclusion of all others.

Ideals are an element of Platonic and pre-Socratic philosophy (see The Philosophy of Success).

Of course, tolerance is an ideal, a virtue, also. But what does tolerance actually entail? Is tolerance the same as acceptance? No, absolutely not. Tolerance is tolerance. In the parlance of one of today's most prominent spiritual teachers, Eckhart Tolle, tolerance is non-reactivity.

In the prom scenario, should Constance show up wearing a tuxedo and dancing her ball-gown-clad girlfriend, don't react. Non-reaction is not the same thing as shunning.

If Constance asks permission ahead of time, school administrators should simply explain that this is not the ideal and await the ACLU's complaint.

In a Platonic world, Constance should also be taught the virtues of ideals and of non-reaction, not only to the actions of other but also to her own behavior. She can at the same time have tendencies that take her away from the ideal and continue to hold those ideals. Put another way, she can hold ideals that she can't live up to. On this score, we are all in the same boat.

We can teach Constance that, rather than abolish the ideal because she can't live up to it, that she can hold on to her ideals (as God gives her the ability to understand those ideals), keep her eye on the gap between her behavior and the ideal, and not worry about the difference--she can tolerate this in herself and others.

Coming to an awareness of this gap is spiritual awakening, and it leads to enlightenment.

What are we trying to help Constance (and all the other students) avoid? A particular behavior? No. Who cares about that? There are lots of unconscious behaviors out there, heterosexual sex included.

We're trying to help her avoid unconsciousness. Put in a positive way, we're trying to help her to become conscious. That is, we are trying to help her to experience the joy of simply being without any extraneous identities whatsoever.

In his first book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,Eckhart Tolle puts it this way, regarding homosexuality in particular:
As you approach adulthood, uncertainty about your sexuality followed by the realization that you are different from others may force you to disidentify from socially conditioned patterns of thought and behavior. This will automatically raise your level of consciousness above that of the unconscious majority, whose members unquestionably take on board all inherited patterns.
In other words, even blind adherence to the ideals is unconsciousness. Being different keeps you from that. It give one a leg up on the competition, so to speak. "It takes you out of unconsciousness almost by force," he says.

But Tolle continues:
On the other hand, if you then develop a sense of identity based on your gayness, you have escaped one trap only to fall into another. You will play roles and games dictated by a mental image you have of yourself as gay. You will become unconscious. You will become unreal. Underneath your ego mask, you will become very unhappy. If this happens to you, being gay will have become a hinderance. But you always get another chance, of course. Acute unhappiness can be a great awakener.
In the enlightened world, there are no gay people. There are no straight people. There are only people who no longer define themselves by their behaviors or even their thoughts. And all unnecessary behaviors and thoughts tend to fall away of their own weight.

Even ideals--which are ideas themselves--become less interesting because you begin to sense the Presence of Consciousness itself--that for which the ideals are simply metaphor.


As a practical matter, parents of faith need to better understand the philosophical foundations of their beliefs, how they are diametrically opposed to Aristotelianism (which is actually systematized unconsciousness). They will also be better served in a private educational setting, where they are not forced to live within the Gomorra that Aristotelianism is creating in the public school system.

And indeed, all people of faith need to put aside their differences and realize the philosophical foundation that we have in common and unite against the Aristotelian horde! Democracy as presently formulated can only work if the majority of people have ridded themselves of such an ugly philosophy.

People of faith, you hold this precious treasure in your hearts. Understand it. Share it. Change the world!

Photo credit: The Pink Jukebox

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