Nothing is Workable

There's considerable value to losing your shit about obvious wrong.

If you’re witnessing a murder, you should respond and perhaps get quite upset at the would-be murderer for their breach of the social contract.

I believe that murder is obviously wrong. Though it can be justified, there is still always an inherent wrongness to murder. Meditation on the near-universal religious precept not to kill, on the act of murder, opens up for contemplation the very beautiful abolitionist concept of nonmurder.

And with that insight, the precept not to kill expands from a seemingly arbitrary rule into profound teaching, posing always the question: why is it good to refrain from killing? What am I learning about myself as I commit and recommit to a life without murder? How does my nonmurder praxis inform my thinking about cages, war, and poverty? About agriculture, schooling and the economy?

Might we ever build a radically new society upon the ethical principle of nonmurder?

So reflecting on obvious wrong thus has serious merits in the spiritual practice. It can generate tremendous insight and illuminate our own path along the logic of nonharm.

But there is still so much more wrong left to discover beyond what is obvious.

Sociologists and anthropologists spend decades studying the ordinary so that we might one day glimpse the extraordinariness holding us all together. French social theory is great for this because it’s always pressing you to think about society like an alien, as someone for whom nothing is familiar and the logic behind everything has to be fully explained. To approach the world with an alien’s consciousness is to be constantly blindsided by how much of our lives just isn’t obvious.

Most of the time, we are being played by nonobviousness.

Social theory taught me that I had to get very comfortable with the idea of nonexplanation, of not knowing, of sitting painfully still between everything I had yet to understand and the quick explanations others used to throw problems away.

You see, you have to study for quite a while what others assume to be nothing to see the less obvious gears of wrong in motion.

That’s where it best likes to hide.