Why Ethics Matter

Do ethics matter? You’re damn right they do.

Given all of the press coverage of the financial sector over the past year especially, as well as the tendency for media to focus on the negativity and general “bad behavior” of many people that are in the public eye (or seek such attention), one might conclude that American society in particular is suffering from a serious lapse of ethics. Perhaps in our feverish desire to realize the “American Dream,” which in this day and age is not only the accumulation of material wealth but also the development of “celebrity capital” (i.e. the realization of Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” via our pervasive media and the belief that “being famous” somehow validates one’s existence as a human being), many people are willing to take shortcuts and act in a manner which rationalizes that any action that achieves a desired result is warranted, no matter the impact on others.

You can call it selfishness, or “looking out for number one,” but at its heart, such behavior is an outgrowth of a lack of an ethical framework and the moral fiber to live up to the challenges inherent in such a system, even as one may repeatedly fall short. Even so, it is my belief that most people do want to behave in an ethical and just manner, even if they are tempted to stray from the path from time to time. This is one of the fundamental challenges and internal battles that we all must struggle with, and how we prosecute this internal campaign reveals a great deal about who we are.

Black Elk, a Lakota Medicine Man whose wisdom has fortunately been preserved outside of his own people through John G. Heihardt’s translation of their discussions entitled Black Elk Speaks, clearly acknowledged this when he said:

“It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among the shadows men get lost.”

In my efforts to begin to codify the Tao of the Zentropist and cultivate what I perceive as universal truths and commonalities encoded in both Eastern and Western traditions, I have clearly discerned what I believe is a meaningful ethical framework that can be applied to both professional and personal development. I have made no claim to having discovered something new, or a body of “secret” knowledge, but rather, I am seeking to collect, distill and synthesize what I believe to be a body of knowledge and wisdom whose constant application will allow us to grow as individuals as well as collectively, and perhaps in doing so,  improve the human condition.

Whether or not others choose to embrace, or contribute to this nominal notion of Zentropism is really not the point. I can personally lay no claim to any great wisdom or “keys to success” which will unlock the fetters which bind the individual. Truthfully, it is my view that we all innately possess the necessary tools to unlock and unleash our potential, if only we are willing to embark upon the journey of discovery. It is only when we have traveled this road for some time that we discover that ultimately, it is without end (for even death is seen by many as but a transitional phase), and while it will contain moments of sheer joy and exultation, it will also have its share of pain and hardship.

For me, development of the Tao of the Zentropist seems to be part of my own journey and resonates at a deeply personal level as I seek a greater understanding of myself and the world around me.  If my writings eventually help or otherwise positively influence someone else, then this is an additional victory.

There are those who feel that we have reached a crossroads, and that the challenges that humanity is facing on a global scale are but a possible prelude to a “nasty, brutish and short” future if we do not make adjustments to our current course. While such apocalyptic statements tend to be delivered in the context of strong religious viewpoints on the matter, study of various world cultures, including many indigenous ones, seems to hint at cyclic periods of destruction, or as Zentropism would have it, failure to acknowledge and address the entropy which leaches energy and put it to constructive and positive use.

Marcus Aurelius, the wise Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, observed in his Meditations that, “The measure of a man is the worth of the things that he cares about.”

It is a time for us to collectively examine the “things we care about” and to pay heed to the idea that how we obtain certain things in life is even more important than simply obtaining them…

1 thought on “Why Ethics Matter

  1. Jonathan,

    Excellent points – if you hadn’t read it I do suggest you pick up a copy of The Black Swan – touches on SOME of your themes but is in general a very prescient take (written a couple of years ago) of what has happened to the financial markets these last 6 months. Has helped me make sense (or more precisely – to recognize how there are NO patterns) of our modern world.


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