In Sweet Company

“Truth Within is sacred. It’s whole. It’s a positive energy that unifies and feeds the body and the mind.”  —  Grandmother Twylah Nitsch, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

Several years ago I was teaching an introductory ethics course to a group of university undergrads and was looking for ways to jazz up the standardized curriculum. Just between you and me, this course was pretty dry and one-dimensional. The required reading consisted of rigid ethical decision-making systems that championed “might makes right” with a healthy dose of “the wrath of God” on the side — something akin to being told to eat cardboard when you’re in the middle of a life crisis and hanging on by your fingernails. I wanted to serve my students something tastier, something that would actually help them learn how to think — and to compassionately about the hard choices they may need to make — but my Department Chair bristled at my suggestions.   

One night as I was driving home from class, I began thinking about …

… “The Golden Rule,” that it’s one of the how-to’s for mankind that most of us — no matter what our differences — agree has merit. The Golden Rule, in any language, is an intuitive experience: When you read or hear the words you just know they are right and true. It’s a universal construct, part of the Collective Wisdom of world. It supports the Greater Good.  

So I did a little research to see how The Golden Rule showed up around the world: The early Egyptians had a version. All the Greek philosophers weighed in, as they always do. The version we in the West are most familiar with appears in the book of Matthew. In Jewish texts I discovered “What thou thyself hatest, do to no man.” In Hinduism, I found, “Do naught to others which, if done to thee, would cause thee pain: this is the sum of duty.” In Buddhism, “A clansman should minister to his friends and family … by treating them as he treats himself.” In Islam, “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” I had a Golden Rule Party and everyone came!

I compiled these Golden Rules and sent them to my Department Chair with a note saying that I thought the list would make for a great (interesting, expansive, deep, meaningful, practical, enthusiastic, yadda, yadda, yadda) class discussion on the universality of ethics and of the existence of the Greater Good. I could give my students a copy of the list, but she denied me the opportunity to discuss it with them.  

When the semester was over, I resigned my teaching position. Later, I heard through the grapevine that when she taught the course, my Department Chair included my list in her curriculum. It was proof to me that The Golden Rule has a will of it’s own that cannot be denied.

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