I named this blog “Reflections of a Flawed Man” because I truly do believe that I’m flawed. In fact, I know I’m flawed in two general ways.
First, I’ve had two major strokes and cancer. All three were flukes in that none were caused by lifestyle issues, none were predictable and none were preventable. They all came as surprises. Yet, they happened. My doctor says it’s like I’ve been struck by lightning three times. In terms of luck and happenstance, he says I am the least healthy patient he has. Fortunately, in terms of everything else, he says I am one of the healthiest patients he has. I’m an unapologetic health nut. I exercise consistently and pay a lot of attention to how I eat. I try to get a good night sleep and I try to keep my stress level under a certain threshold. For the most part, I succeed in the things I can control. Still, these adverse health events happened to me and they leave permanent scars, physically and emotionally.
However, I am flawed in another way. I am human. As a human, I cannot seem to go a day without excess worry, selfish behavior and preoccupation with myself and the treatment I think I am receiving from others. Mostly, I have the regular habit of disappointing myself. Thus, I seem to be flawed simply by being a human because all humans seem to have these same troubles.
I have spent a lot of time contemplating the first manner of being flawed and my health struggles have certainly taught me a great deal. However, the second manner of being flawed is equally fascinating to me.
You see, there seems to me to be a certain standard to which I hold myself and to which I can never seem to measure up. I’ve used to think that this sense of failure was unique to me but I have since realized I have never met any other human being who truly conforms to all of the morals and virtues that seem to be universal aspirations of humans. Some of us may obsess about this a bit more than others but there seems to be some set of rules of right behavior that we all fail to attain. Interestingly, we all seem to know that we fall short of the mark.
This leads to a question. Where did this mark come from and is it legitimately real? I think that it is and I think that it is called natural law. Let me give you an example. If someone is in line ahead of me at the pharmacy and I butt in ahead of that person, at a minimum that person will notice and consider my behavior to be rude. That person may or may not verbally object. If that person verbally objects, she or he will be appealing to a sense of fairness and manners that he or she assumes I ought to know. I may respond with an excuse or justification for my actions but I don’t pretend that the standard of fairness is a new or meaningless concept.
Looking at this more broadly, every major religion and culture seems to have some version of the golden rule. You know, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. This is interesting because for almost all of human history, most religions and cultures were isolated from other religions and cultures. Yet, they seem to have remarkable similarity in their moral codes. Granted, each code of morality is not identical to all the others as to specifics but one would be hard pressed to find differences in general concepts pertaining to the main rules. No one thinks that it is alright to be selfish, boastful, greedy and so forth. No one thinks that theft, murder or rape are acceptable.
There is a positive side to this seeming moral code as well that we all seem to accept in general terms. No one seems to deny that we have a right to defend ourselves or to sustain our lives. No one would deny that we should help those less fortunate. Everyone would seem to agree that all human beings have a certain value and dignity merely by being born. Sure, we may not always treat people that way but we all accept the concepts. When any given group seems to deny basic human rights, the rest of the world will object if it takes notice.
C.S. Lewis makes these points in his book “Mere Christianity”. I would commend that book to anyone wanting to consider the origins of natural law further.
I have even heard agnostics and atheists appeal to a sense of right behavior numerous times. In fact, I’ve heard atheistic appeals to the golden rule. It may be a bit of a head scratcher figuring out why an atheist would appeal to the golden rule but they still seem to find some validity therein.
This sense of the existence of some kind of moral behavior, or natural law, is not a new construct. The Declaration of Independence may be the most venerated document in American history. Quite clearly, our founders believed that there were certain rights given us by the Creator. These include a right of government by the consent of the governed as well as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To the founders, violations of these rights were violations of natural law.
In fact, the Christian faith teaches a natural law. It also teaches that we do a lousy job of adhering to it. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If there was no law or standard to adhere to, neither Paul nor the Bible would make any sense. For anyone who already thinks that the Bible makes no sense, you will also need to be prepared to refute all other religions as well because they contain similar concepts. For anyone who denies all religion, I am hard pressed to understand why such folks still seem to follow some sort of seemingly organic moral code or why they feel the need for making excuses for themselves if they do not follow some kind of code.
So, I’m still flawed. I always will be. Much of my blog is personal and is based on my own life journey. However, life is a fascinating journey even without major medical setbacks. We humans are actors in a play where there is a script but we often ignore it and ad lib instead. We do this in the context of both comedy and tragedy. It makes for quite a show.