Use Your Rules

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the United States. You might, therefore think that I’m going to talk about the things we have to be thankful for and the things that God is thankful for and so on and so forth.

But I’m not. And not only that, I’m not going to talk about gluttony.

Instead I’m going to talk about a related human strength, empathy. Empathy is the basis of the best of human interaction. It’s what guides us to being fair. It’s what makes us want to do more for those we love, than they do for us; because when they feel good, so do we. The old Cherokee saying, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” is all about empathy.

Okay, I lied a little up front, I am going to mention being thankful. You see, yesterday when God and I were talking, she did ask me what I was thankful for. I told her I was thankful that at least most people tried to live by the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is most classically stated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” God said he had a problem with that particular invocation. The problem is that it doesn’t account for all of our differences. A not-quite-over-the-top refutation would be that just because I would enjoy having peanuts in my food, doesn’t mean that I should put peanuts in the food of someone severely allergic to them.

I argued that such an example is merely following the letter of the law, not the spirit. In that example you could say that the proper reading of the Golden Rule would be to give my friend food that he or she would enjoy and which would not be detrimental to their health, not give them the exact food that I might be craving at the moment. God said that was right, but that supported her complaint about the wording since to make my point I resorted to altering the wording for the circumstance. We did go back and forth a bit and I got her to concede that English is such an imperfect means of communication that it’s nigh on impossible to come up with a single pithy phrase that couldn’t be twisted around to support something other than its true intent.

But she convinced me that we could do better than “do unto others.” She wouldn’t give me a phrase of her own, she’s learned that being quoted often works against her, but we talked around it a bit until I finally came up with a phrase that she said was better. So my suggestion for the new meaning of the Golden Rule, “Use your empathy.” And that’s where we left it.

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