How to Replace the 10 Commandments – Free Ebook

The Ten Commandments maintain an extraordinary hold on our imaginations even though many of them can sound – in the context of our own times – really rather peculiar, with injunctions not to covet a neighbour’s livestock or to make sure one doesn’t carve images of god-like figures in the rocks. The Commandments were responses to the specific needs of a small nomadic community, wandering the Sinai peninsula with goats and sheep around 1,200 BC. Our needs have, predictably, changed a bit since then. But a place for rules remains: because we’re still horribly prone to violence, cruelty and self-righteousness and need regularly to be reminded of how to live peacefully and well with ourselves and our neighbours. What would it be like to try to update the commandments for our own times? Here is a go… The good person is at all times highly aware of their flaws and committed to becoming a better version of themselves. They are not insulted if people point out their need for evolution, even when they do this rather clumsily. A good person believes in ongoing need for moral and phsycological education.. The good person knows that everyone is deeply damaged and a little mad, starting with (of course) themselves. They are unfrightened by their own strangeness and are committed to informing those around them of it in very good time, and apologising retrospectively when they have failed to do so. They understand that part of their duty is to have a ready answer to the legitimate question, ‘And how are you crazy?’ The good person is loyal in relationships not because they think their lover is perfect, but because they know that everyone is pretty imperfect and rather hard to live with at close range. They accept that the only people we can ever think of as normal or easy are people we don’t yet know very well. The good person knows that it is impossible to be wholly understood by anyone and accepts that things are going well if one is very lonely in around only half of the key areas of one’s life. The good person tries hard never to assume that other people should know what they are thinking of or want without them having told them very clearly and kindly. They try to resist sulking (behaviour that stems from an incensed belief that others should know why we are upset without us having told them) and are committed to teaching others about the contents of their minds. The good person looks at people who are behaving badly as if they might be small children; that is with patience, charity and an active search for mitigating circumstances. Though our societies stress the insult of being treated as younger than one is, the good person knows it is the greatest privilege for anyone to look beyond the apparently strong yet nasty adult to the worried, anxious and probably really rather nice child within. Confronted with a piece of stupidity or evil which they could never be guilty of, the good person doesn’t fall into self-righteousness. They swiftly remember all the many stupid and evil things they have at other points, over different things, been guilty of. They don’t lose sight of how much they overall stand in need of the charity and forgiveness of others. The good person is committed to searching for the funny side of people who might appear merely desperately irritating. They look at others like characters in a comedy rather than a tragedy. They know that the greatest achievement is to be able to move from seeing someone as an ‘idiot’ to considering them as that most privileged of beings: a ‘loveable idiot.’ The good person is a firm believer in restraint and in not immediately saying certain things that are on their minds. They hold that being fully oneself entails a level of melodrama and rage that one should spare any human one cares about. The good person knows that the best protection against impatience and paranoia is a little gently-worn pessimism. They budget for disappointment far ahead of time. They don’t cry constantly only because they have understood that the whole of existence is – in many ways – worthy of tears. Their constant awareness of the possibility of death and catastrophe makes them especially appreciative of small things that happen to go well. They relish flowers, balmy skies and so-called ‘boring days’ when everyone manages to go to bed relatively content and at peace.

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