Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Philosophy of Life Paper

I. Personal Values
In this class, the author ascertained and brought to words what he already knew in pertaining to his personal values. However, it was not as easy as taking a test, even one as thorough as the Life Values Inventory or L.V.I. It took being honest with myself, much less being accurate with the results to properly translate them to the forms. It took several tries with which to decipher the results. When this was accomplished, it brought meaning to the contexts of my life and what is deemed important. This should not be construed as values in tangibles, such as family, friends, and job as of this writing, possessions, prestige or even something semi-tangible such as an impending degree. No, values are what guide a person to operate in the fashion he or she chooses, regardless of whether or not they recognize moral ground or a deity.
The mandates of this world, having a job, taking care of a family, acknowledging and interacting with friends, taking care of contractual obligations, obeying the law and in this author’s case, fulfilling a promise, carry a heavy burden of responsibility. The promise spanned over eighteen years of his time and tens of thousands of dollars of monies that are ill-afforded to lose. This was going to college and earning a bachelor’s degree after two years out of high school; all the while validating a reason for pursuing a trade over higher education.
Responsibility is the most important value this author has. Even in impossible situations, the only way “out” is through a problem. I have learned this lesson through a personal bankruptcy in 2001 as a result of frequent unemployment in the 1990’s. It prompted an attitude of getting back to basics that is a tenet of my beliefs to this day, even while many took to living beyond their means.
Spirituality is much harder to define and something I have struggled with during my time at Spring Arbor University. While there might be a religious component to being spiritual, it is not exclusive to being religious. Being spiritual is service to a higher purpose than survival or the aforementioned responsibility. When accepting the responsibilities of life, it is for that purpose. All the real, tangible benefits of a job, family or other components of life are just window dressing in this author’s opinion. The real purpose is serving others as well as the religious aspect of serving the Lord in our work and every other thing we do if this is applicable. It is a value that has been tough to translate into his work as of this writing.
When people are allowed to pursue their means in a spiritual way, creativity is another favorable byproduct. It means that people can call upon their own strengths to solve a problem, rather than lock step with policies and procedures. Time and again, the people who are working with the customers and their problems are the best qualified to solve the problem. Rather than make a lot of rules that few can remember, a few that make sense with the spirit of the objective are more constructive. To this end, the author cannot claim to know everything about a certain job or means. Nor is there any real reason to try. The best way to solve a problem is to create a way to solve a problem, not by memorizing a myriad of procedures.
One example of this is the time it takes to replace a heat exchanger in a well-known brand furnace. The flat rate is four hours because it takes time for a technician to get a handhold on the part. With a piece of pipe and a cap, the author can perform the same task in half the time. Achievement is the result of many failures and the ability of that person to stand on them, rather than be buried by them. Employment has not been a shining moment in this value to the author, substituting academic success instead. This is not the fault of anyone save the author; because he set his expectations in a direction that insured he would be buried by his failures. Fortunately, I have found this condition to be completely reversible.
The real challenge of attaining a sense of value in employment is to realize his brand and work for the sense of a higher purpose first. Although working for the heating company, my heart was not in it until realizing this is for the glory of the Lord. This is has been the theme since being first laid off in August of 1993. Employer loyalty and the achievement it might bring has become a victim of lowered expectations as a result. Those are the core values for the author, as far as the test is concerned. Values are not set in stone and this is a personal belief. As we find a hierarchy of needs in our lives, age, or find ourselves at a crossroads in life, these are bound to change.
II. Three Moral Languages
My background beliefs consist of Christian Theism and to a small, but not insignificant amount, Humanism. In other words, I believe that people can and do change things but the Lord Jesus Christ is the reason for creation and redemption of this world. He is also the final answer to the human condition through his redemption of human beings from sin and the evil one, commonly known as the Devil. The meaning of the name “devil” is slanderer and accuser. While Jesus is our advocate, the Devil is the one who brings our faults before the Lord to condemn us. In addition, the Lord created good, but in an absence of good is evil. I believe strongly in the concept of both; while one is the presence thereof, the other is lacking thereof.
Therefore, we make sense because we are created by the Lord to love and be loved by him through our own free will. This is the very reason the Lord, in his perfect wisdom, has allowed us to choose the absence of good in our lives if that is in fact our decision. We have creativity, imagination, the ability to express love, the desire to do what is right. In short in the image of our creator that transcends anything perceived on a superficial level.
One aspect that we should never expect to chare with the Lord is his glory and the accompanying responsibility. This is in fact the reason for the fall of man. This greed for knowledge and power has corrupted our relationship with him that only Jesus could reverse. It is all we have to do to accept this gift from him, there is nothing human beings can do to earn their salvation.
Moral character something first learned from parents and in my case, from the first church I attended for the first thirteen years of my life. It was what is referred to as a Southern Baptist church, but is more correctly referred to as Independent Baptist in today’s language. The pastor, Dr. Don L. Green, refers to it as an “old-fashioned, Bible-believing (King James), Christ-centered church.” They are the basis for all of my moral and arguably religious beliefs, even though I have not attended for nearly twenty-six years. What is more is while I may not agree with their methods on a superficial level; they gave me a strong belief system and the vehicle in which to convey it. In other words, this is my ability to read and write well. My relatives, friends and acquaintances have also had varying degrees of significance in shaping my moral sculpture. However, as with the church, there are “good” and “bad” things concerning this shaping and forming that is still going on to this day.
While altruism, spirituality, responsibility, faithfulness and industriousness are core beliefs throughout my peers there are some unfortunate negative aspects to this as well. Gluttony, sloth, lust, pride, selfishness, idolatry and other platitudes run rampant in the community as a whole. There is not enough space in such a paper to address all of the influences, helpful or harmful, but all have touched me and everyone else in some way. On the individual level, I have had many positive roles models, but again, not enough room in such a paper or the time to discuss them all.
My mother’s husband and his father were instrumental in helping me become a productive, creative and responsible citizen in the community. Although I disagree with my mother’s husband (for all practical purposes, my father) on the morality of labor unions and my late grandfather on his conservative viewpoints, I agree with both of them in their positive beliefs made mention of at the top of this page.
My moral principles are based on the Bible and those around me, whether because of, or in spite of, those principles practiced around me. However, even without the moral guidance of the Bible or other theological influences, such as those claimed by a good friend of mine in class, there is the innate desire to do what is right. So what is meant by what it right or wrong? One advertisement on the radio for the Baldwin/McCullough Extreme Radio show makes mention of whether or not something is legal as the basis for being moral (or ethical).
Clearly, this is not the case. The best way for me to explain my version of morality is to bring it to one, easy to remember phrase. This is to do onto other as you would want them to do onto you. In contemporary English, this is to treat someone else the way you yourself would like to be treated. It bears mention that this includes at a minimum, dignity and respect.
In fact, the whole of Luke 6:27-36 could sum up my morals quite well. Loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, being kind to the ungrateful and wicked (not carrying grudges), and doing something without expecting something back is the foundation. It will allow me to create the ideal work environment within my scope of influence, no matter how small that might be.
III. Worldview Assumptions
Admittedly, my worldview is not exactly that of Christian Theology, at least in the legalistic sense. Nevertheless, it the one which I embrace the most and it has been the focal point of most if not all of my decision making processes. This has been instrumental in marrying my wife instead of living with her as my girlfriend, as the Bible also supports this in Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:21-23, Mark 10:6-9 and even 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. The Lord did not just mandate these rules to cramp my style. All of my friends who practiced cohabitation were deeply offended at my disapproval of this choice, but most of them have experienced the anger and pain of divorce.
I cannot ascertain whether or not this worldview has affected my career choices fully. It has gotten me fired at least once. This is because I would not take part in breaking God’s commandments against lying or stealing for the gain of the company I was working for several years ago. Though previously wanting to be in the ministry for an Assembly of God church, the perceived hypocrisy of the laity and clergy after my request has shelved those plans for now. It is my prayer that the Lord will grant me the opportunity if this is in fact his will. Moreover, a better explanation of beliefs will be answered in the seven questions posed in chapter one of the Universe Next Door.
What is the prime reality-the really real? As an individual who has a self-confessed value and belief in spirituality, this is beyond the corporeal existence that we find ourselves in. Reality is not what we see, hear, taste, touch or smell. These are part of a universe created by a being with infinitely more intelligence than all of the smartest human beings on this planet who have, will or ever will exist. God is the reality as Christians and there is little we as created beings can relate to this. Even as being who can create something like a sand castle, step stool or an automobile, we cannot create something out of nothing as God has done.
What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? This is a question I admittedly struggle with. This does not mean that I will not try to explain it. I believe the world and universe are created, orderly (as through intelligent design and execution) as both matter and spirit (in the case of us human beings).
What is a human being? As in the aforementioned book, the Universe Next Door, a person made in the image of God. To reiterate, we are not only given the superficial semblances, but the spiritual and emotional ones as well. After all, we feel anger, sadness, jealousy, happiness, joy and loneliness. The Lord feels these as well as is expressed in the Bible.
What happens to a person at death? As a Christian Theist, my legalistic point of view is that we’re either with the Lord Jesus, or separated from him after our heavy, cumbersome vehicle finally fails. This is dependent on choices that we have made through life as one either chooses to accept or reject the gift of eternal life. While many pastors have tried to gloss over the negative consequences of not accepting this gift (one tried to equate Hell with the garbage dump of the universe, but being drawn to what others might call garbage, I call this saving money and not exactly Hell).
I do know that Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven (or Paradise), because it made more sense to talk about avoiding the negative consequences rather than lusting over the positive ones. Paradise is more about being with Jesus than any other perceived “rewards” in my opinion. Neither would I reject the “rewards.”
Why is it possible to know anything at all? The answer to this is also to the answer of question three. We were made in the image of a knowing being and therefore have the ability to know. This is not to say that too much knowledge is a dangerous thing, as the old adage says. Knowledge is has been a blessing and curse for us as human beings and there has been an explosion of it as we have headed into the twenty-first century. We have even given up our relationship with the Lord to know what we do. The consequences of this are full of wonder and horror to this writer. We have the ability to split the atom, clone human beings and track everyone with a computer. The last of the three is probably the most oppressive form of tyranny we have at our disposal (Revelation 13:16-18).
How do we know what is right and wrong? Even if we as human beings do not care to admit it, we were created in the image and by a being with the innate sense of right and wrong. We have a conscience, which gives us a fair assessment of what we ought, rather than what we please. Time and again, it appalls me to see so many, young and old, decide to do what feels good to them and make this the basis of their moral scope. There was a significant parking problem at the apartment complex I used to work at. Yet tenants continued to flout the rules because they put their wants ahead of their neighbors’ needs to have a parking space. I had twenty cars towed in the last ten months of my tenure and nearly got into a physical confrontation with one of their owners. This is how deeply ingrained our skewed sense of right and wrong has become.
What is the meaning of human history? We are here to love and be loved by the Lord and this is in a nutshell. We are collectively and individually supposed to learn to make good choices throughout our lives, love and care for other, follow the Lord’s word and accept him. History is linear, with a definite beginning and end. Even the supposed end is just the beginning for those who trust and put their faith in the Lord.
IV. Application of Personal Ethics
I would relish the thought of a more profound ethical dilemma in which I could discuss what has more impact for the one about to be mentioned. This is clearly not the case. I have been defined and typecast by this dilemma for probably the rest of my life. It is akin to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the fact I will probably tell this story for the same. There is only one real decision-making model for this dilemma and this is whether it is right or wrong.
Tom’s Shop Rite was the typical “mom and pop” stores that had a tenuous hold in the late 1980’s, when I elected to pursue an after school job to help my struggling family. I had the opportunity to work among people my age. Popularity was not one of my larger priorities but being liked and accepted was as important to me as it was any other teenage boy. There was the want to be attractive to the opposite sex and cultivate friendships with coworkers in this “mom and pop” store. The very first week of work culminated into a moment that has affected me to this day. My aunt worked there for nearly twenty years before the store closed its doors in the mid 1990’s and she was an observer and commentator for the happenings after. At the time, I could not visualize the possible consequences of my choice, good and bad, but it was something rushing headlong out of.
A young, attractive woman is one matter, while the admiration and invitation from same is another entirely. She was in the person of a cashier at said grocery store and a coworker during my fledgling career. I bagged the groceries as was customary for sixteen and seventeen year old males at the time. She passed the groceries down and I put them in the brown paper bags, also customary at the time. Then I would carry the wares outside to the customers’ vehicles, something today reserved for the elderly and disabled and again, only if the customer asks for it. It was a simple enough job, looking back twenty-three years, but it was about to get much more complicated.
The young woman turned to me, eye to eye and asked me if I wanted to go to a party with her. This seemed innocuous enough; after all, I had been to a fair amount of parties by this time. What she said next was what was as vile to me then as it is now. “We can get drunk,” was the beginning of the end of any hope of popularity at the grocery store. I knew this if I uttered, “I’m sorry, but I don’t drink.” If I acquiesced and somehow got permission to go to this party and imbibe, it might result in popularity and a girl to decorate my arm. The negative results of going were just as bad as not being rejected by the microcosm known as Tom’s Shop Rite, but from a sixteen year olds standpoint, the results could be equally devastating.
It conflicted heavily with my value of responsibility, which is what prompted me to take this job in the first place. It also did with spirituality in that I was working for a higher purpose (even then, this value had not changed either) and this did not include getting “wasted” or breaking the law. It also conflicted with my value of achievement. Is this something I really wanted to be proud of, getting intoxicated for the sake of going to some party? Neither did I want to be perceived as being “holier than thou.”
I could fully empathize with the parties involved as I had been subject to “aggressive Christianity” in my formative years and did not want to take part in it. The decision I made was to be direct, polite and firm. The moment I uttered those words “I’m really sorry, but I don’t drink,” there was no turning back. My chance at popularity was over; this was to be the least of my worries. Being shunned and oppressed seem to walk hand in hand.
My car was egged and a door bashed in “accidentally”; the tires on my bicycle slashed with a box cutter and one co-worker even assaulted me in the backroom. There was no relief from the management either. It was if I declared being “holier than thou” to the whole world, though this was clearly not the case. There were three younger sisters to think about and one had already demonstrated her willingness to break the rules. How was this going to look if the big brother decided to “get plastered” in the name of popularity? It did not bode well for my time there, and less than two years after I started, I gave notice out of anger and frustration.
This did not win me any accolades with any of the coworkers my age. It did win me my self-respect, dignity and individuality. Some things are worth more than popularity to me now. Less than two weeks from my thirty-ninth birthday, I can say that my values mean something to me. They are something that I can truly call my own.





References
Green, D. D. (2009 ). Home Page . Retrieved June 12 , 2009 , from Parker Memorial Baptist Church : http://www.pmbclansing.org/Home/
Sire, J. W. (2004 ). The Universe Next Door. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press USA .

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