4/20/2010

Moral Ambiguity

The biggest threat to our well being is the absence of moral clarity. Rick Shuman

A few years ago, Rick and I purchased a little cabin in the woods of western Pennsylvania. Our primitive little cottage was built in 1918, by my uncle's grandfather, from lumber salvaged from the burned ruins of a one room school house that previously occupied the property. The cottage's charm is enhanced by a sleepy little creek that babbles continuously as it tumbles toward it's end and into the larger French Creek.

The property surrounding the cottage had been neglected for two years following the death of my aunt; its gardens ravaged by the elements. Less than a year before she died, we walked the property, arm in arm, as she proudly pointed out the contributions she'd made to the nearly century old flower beds. The current shabbiness made me sad and I resolved to do what I could to restore them.

In spite of the fact that I love gardening and am familiar with most of the eastern perennials, the task before me was daunting. My Aunt had been reluctant to rid the yard of the remnants of some wild roses, which had now established a strong foothold throughout the yard. They were the first to go, as they were no longer capable of producing any blossoms but had lethal thorns.

Next, I had to sort the weeds from the flowers, which was made more difficult by the fact that wildflowers had infiltrated the beds. Few of the plants were in bloom, so I had to identify flower from weed by leaf and growth pattern alone. I hated to remove anything of value, so decided to leave some of the questionable plants.

Which brings me to the three hours I spent this afternoon, weaving my way in and around the known perennials to pluck out a particularly invasive wildflower I'd allowed to proliferate. I admit to feeling a bit guilty for removing them, but their reproductive rate was astonishing. They were literally taking over the garden and the payoff wasn't that great, as the flowers were small and insignificant. I had a back-breaking project ahead.

About fifteen years ago, my Aunt gave me a little yard sign that said, "You're never closer to God, than in a garden." I've always loved that sentiment and find that its quite true. I never seem to spend more than ten minutes with my hands in the dirt, before I find myself deep in thought. Today, was no exception.

As I yanked stalk after stalk of the undesirable plant, I noticed that hiding beneath them, struggling to survive, were beautiful flowering bulbs that most certainly had been planted years before. The invasive plants were literally, chocking them out. I was struck by the ambiguity of the situation. Had I chosen to allow the invasive plants to live, I would have doomed the more worthy ones, but who knew?

It occurs to me, that my garden is a microcosm of the world at large, where we make choices that have lasting consequences of unimaginable proportions. When I decided to tackle my garden, I had previous experience with gardening and access to a library of botanical encyclopedias. I felt, that I had a reasonably good chance of making wise choices and decisions, thus I went forward with the project.

I worry that we are living in a time of moral ambiguity where there is no clear sense of what is right or wrong. The most basic moral imperatives, the Ten Commandments, have been banished from public schools and government institutions. Every day there's another example of some sports star or politician caught in an ethics violation or worse, and debates rage over how or even whether, they should be punished or prosecuted.

Some say, its nobody's business if a star quarterback violates a team code of conduct, if it doesn't affect his performance on the field. Same goes for the golf star that cheats on his wife and children. Who cares if a United States Senator cheats on his taxes or pays her nanny under the table? So what if a woman has four kids out of wedlock to two different men, pays no taxes and lives on welfare, as long as her children are fed and clothed.

Who are we to judge? We all need to accept each other for who we are. Live and let live!
You can't run a society or cope with its problems if people are not held accountable for what they do. John Leo
A society with eroding ethical standards, an ambiguous moral code, and an unwillingness to adjudicate, is like a garden full of invasive plants. If no action is taken, the greater good will be choked out and the culture doomed to wither and die.

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