7. Morals v. Wisdom: Choose the best
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First Things

7. Morals v. Wisdom: Choose the best

I'm not a moralist; I'm not preaching morality.

Few of the propositions I set forth in this book pertain to right or wrong, good or evil, or anything having to do with whether you go to heaven or hell when you die.  On the contrary, they all have to do with nuts-and-bolts, concrete, material consequences in the real world, here and now.

Actually, I'm not sure what "morality" means any more.  The only "moral" proposition I'm likely to set forth here pertains to a parent's duty to care for her or his children.

It's a common misconception, set forth many times in the Bible (starting with, for example, Psalm 1), that "good" people will prosper and "bad" people will not. That is also a very common belief in popular religion. Deuteronomy 28 sets forth extravagant blessings that, it says, God will heap upon those who obey all the rules.

But that doesn't correspond to real life.

We all see "good" people, very good people, who meet hardship and disaster.

Prosperity belongs not to the righteous, but to the wise.

Wisdom does not have to do with knowledge and intelligence — ideas, that pertain to the mind; but to "affects," emotional feelings,, that pertain to the soul. It pertains in particular to what one chooses to want.

Decisions that result in untoward outcomes aren't so much stupid or wrong, as foolish.  They reflect emotional immaturity.

One can choose and change what one wants, at will. To me, that's what "free will" is all about.

The wise person, the emotionally mature person, does that.

Choose the best

Again, common thinking supposes that one normally faces decisions between two things, one right and the other wrong, one good and the other bad.

But that's not what we see in real life, either.

Far more often, one faces choices among many options, and the task is to choose the best from among them.  Facing a fruit bowl, one is not likely to have to choose only between an apple and an orange, but rather among an apple, an orange, a banana, a plum, a pear, and grapes.  Many options.  This particular choice may not be very consequential.  Other similar choices we face may be very consequential.

Facing any set of options, choices among different possible courses of action, one needs to evaluate which among them is most likely to bring the most desirable results.

Some examples.

Any course of action that may land you in jail, is never the best choice.

Neither is any course of action likely to cause damage to a person or to property.

A young woman known to me came up in highly disadvantaged circumstances, but impressed me as being solid to the core.  I was half right; she had a side I'd never seen.  She chose to become pregnant by a boy — boy — who was not in any way fit to become a father.  Marriage was not in the picture.  I gather she suppposed the American "safety net" would provide for her and her children (She did the same thing again two years later, with a different boy.), but that did not prove to be the case.  She had many options.  She chose one that would guarantee only hardship for herself and her children for at least the next twenty years.

Wisdom often entails changing what you want.

It's not about right and wrong.  It's about choosing the best.