Thursday, August 7, 2014

Morality as Imagination

I know -- you just want pretty garden pictures. But I'm a thinking guy, and in that thinking I fall in love with the world around me -- which is where my ethical imperatives in the garden come from:

"Logical thinking alone can only elaborate what it already knows; it is at root tautologous. To make a real scientific discovery requires more than logic or data collection; it requires imagination. As Einstein remarked, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Imagination reaches beyond what we already know to the new. Every true innovation and original insight will make use of data and logic but simultaneously transcend them. In like manner, every moral insight or judgment will make use of past experience and moral reasoning, but also transcend them.

We are empathic beings. As such we are profoundly connected to other human beings, as well as to all of nature. We can feel the joy and suffering of others, and as innately moral beings, we seek to mitigate suffering and promote the flourishing of others, even at a cost to ourselves. True morality carries the marks of insight and imagination. Every true moral act is made in freedom. Yes, we are informed by experience and the values of our society, but ultimately through self-knowledge, we have the potential to become free of their determinative force and choose the good (or evil) freely. In my view this is the moment in which love takes on the character of knowing. Love allows us gently, respectfully, and intimately to slip into the life of another person or animal or even the Earth itself and to know it from the inside. In this way, love can become a way of moral knowing that is as reliable as scientific insight. Then our highest challenge and aspiration is to learn to love with such selflessness and purity that love becomes a way to true moral insight, one that transcends social construction and biological imperatives."

Love is a way of moral knowing that is as reliable as scientific insight? This will aggravate a lot of people. But in a world of black vs. white, science vs. religion, native plants vs. exotic, it's true -- the lines really are blurry, and to find direction one has to hop between them and think from multiple perspectives at once (some call this empathy, some magical thinking). It's hard. Imagination is freedom, and to put it into words creates a statement of belief, which can both be even more liberating as well as restricting. The words may open up new insights for you, but once focused into letters you open yourself up to external perceptions and other people with other imaginings and beliefs. In this way language as we know it fails -- but thank goodness we always have the garden and nature to come back to, to help us fall in love again and remember who we are.

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