Wednesday, June 11, 2008

All that Matters

"In the greater scheme, in the bigger picture, nothing we do matters. There's no grand plan, no big win.

"If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. Because that's all there is." ~Angel

Joss Whedon wrote that, and he is a genius.

I try to write this blog with non-geeks in mind so, Joss Whedon ... he's the creator/writer of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, FIREFLY and its movie spinoff SERENITY, and the upcoming tv series DOLLHOUSE. ANGEL's title character is a vampire with a soul (the dark, broody guy in the image up there). Through Angel's words Joss Whedon has managed to capture a philosophy that I've always had trouble explaining.

Several years ago there was an article in a newspaper about creationism vs evolution. The author's point was that anyone who didn't believe that we were created by a superior being could not possibly be a good or moral person because he had no authority to tell him good from bad. I took offense to this, of course, and replied with a letter to the editor saying that I'd rather be an ape who has improved himself than an angel who'd fallen.

This came up again when a young woman posted to the Witchvox site that she couldn't understand why pagans and atheists wouldn't accept that there was a loving, parental god who set down guidelines for good and evil and punished us when we strayed. I responded with my humanist view that we are perfectly capable of deciding right and wrong for ourselves. It took pages and, of course, she wasn't convinced.

But that's my take. It's reflected in the bottom line of the Witches' Rede, "an it harm none, do what thou will." The usual comeback is that letting people decide right and wrong for themselves leads to sociopaths, Nazis and serial killers. That is nonsense. Human beings know perfectly well what's right and wrong. Those that don't use that knowledge don't care or have a personality disorder.

The humanist concept is not popular because it is a scary one. It means that you are responsible for what you do, not Original Sin or the Devil or aliens, and you have to do what you know is right without a big parent watching over you. You have to do what's right even without punishment or rewards. Even when you know you can't win. Another ANGEL line says:

"Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. - It's harsh, and cruel. - But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be."

If my spiritual philosophy is "there is great Mystery in the universe and we are all part of it," then "all that matters is what we do" is my moral philosophy.