Morality puzzles me. It shows up everywhere: in our culture, in our politics, in our language, in our history. And yet nobody seems able to put their finger on a precise definition. I don’t fancy myself much of an ethicist, but to me, morality appears one of Those Things a lot of people just take for granted. The problem is: some of us allow too much leniency, some of us too much strictness. Everyone talks about “striking a balance;” however, with the ambiguity our different perspectives create, even balance itself can seem equivocal at best.
And the standards change constantly. My parents—particularly my dad—love to tease me (as all good parents do, it seems) about my tendency to balk at their cursing. You have to understand, my parents are reasonably devout sailors, and the things people say about sailors and word-choice aren’t stretching the truth. I remember one time when our family was on a road trip (I don’t remember where to) staying at a roadside motel, I heard my dad (obviously not too pleased that our trip schedule had him waking up at five o’clock in the morning) grumble something halfway under his breath about the “shitty breakfast” the hotel had provided. I reminded him—in a voice I presumed relatively mild—that it was, in fact, complimentary, daaaad; the least you could do is say thanks. Sheesh. My parents of course wanted only the highest standard of propriety for me—from then on, every time we were walking through the halls of the building, they would both begin to attempt relaxing my apprehensions around foul language by repeating certain four-letter words over and over again: “Shit shit shit shit fuck fuck shit shit.”
I remember a few years later I was having a conversation with my parents. I said curse word—I think it was “shit,” oddly enough, and was immediately I felt a rush of cold stares being heaved straight at me, as if I had just announced my affiliation with the NAZI party. Even more strangely, we were just at home, by ourselves—it’s not like anyone else would have been around to hear. The tides had turned, apparently.
It does seem illogical, but I guess that’s just because human beings are illogical creatures. We can be so devoted to a cause—a particular set of morals, of persuasions—that we loose sight of reality, becoming lost in it. And yet, in just a few years time, we can turn completely around and contradict ourselves like nobody’s business. It just goes to show that blindly following ideals and social contracts without ever considering the circumstances of a particular situation ain’t always the wisest choice. Relativity is everywhere.
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