Randy's Corner Deli Library

26 October 2009

The Right Thing

What's the right thing to do in life? Is it what others say it is? Or is it more flexible? I've been thinking of late that doing the right thing gives lie to the notion that life is lived in black and white. For when situations arise that you never, in a million years, thought would arise actually do, you have no earthly clue what to do except what you think is the right thing. So what is it?

It's got to be some combination of moral, ethical and practical standards. If we are without standards, what are we but animals? But who is to say what is moral, ethical and practical? We have theologians from world-renowned universities telling us that there is a God to guide us. People in Africa ask witch doctors to aid them in their quest for meaning in life. For in the end, is not doing the right thing the very thing that gives us meaning in life? However we define it?

Of this I am certain: doing the right thing isn't always easy. I suppose those who choose to follow a more rigid religious course than I do -- the truly Orthodox, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim -- it doesn't really matter -- not me-- may have a less difficult time understanding the right thing, because it's all written down for them in halacha or sharia or the Bhagavad Gita or whatever. But life is far more difficult, far more nuanced and unpredictable so that too often, life involves you in situations where written rules are signposts, not fences. Like life, the law has to maintain its standards while keeping society in order. So it thus follows, and I would guess, that doing the right thing is, in a way of looking at the universe, very close conceptually to the notion of maintaining standards of existence -- however expressed -- which, if maintained on a level high enough, will go a long way to giving a person true and lasting meaning in their life. And giving oneself -- or some other person -- the gift of meaning is always the right thing to do in any situation we might encounter.

Randy Shiner

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