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PHILOSOPHY-ETHICS

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” (1986)

In thirty-two (32) years since the book’s best-seller publication, have we forgotten, gotten lost (within family life, at work, in government, throughout the world)?

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ROBERT FULGHUM

Robert Fulghum grew up in Waco, Texas, received a Bachelor of Arts at Baylor University in 1958, a Bachelor of Divinity in 1961, and was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship in Bellingham, Washington, from 1960-1964.  He is currently Minister Emeritus at the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church in Edmonds, Washington. The Kindergarten book stayed on The New York Times bestseller lists for nearly two years.  The collection of essays, subtitled “Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things,” has been updated and revised.  There are currently more than 17 million copies of his books in print, published in 27 languages in 103 countries!  [See more in Wikipedia.]

Remember this: Play fair . . . Don’t take things that aren’t yours . . . When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together . . . Share everything . . . Don’t hit people . . . Clean up your own mess . . . Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody . . . Take a nap every afternoon.

“Crayolas are one of the few things the human race has in common.”

“Rock, paper, scissors: scissors cut paper; paper covers rock; rock smashes scissors.”

“To be human is to know and to care and ask, ‘What’s it for?’”

“We take what we know, which isn’t even the whole story, and we add it to what we wish and need, . . .  We even make ourselves up, fusing what we are with what we wish into what we must become.”

from the book Uh-Oh (1991):

“In high school, one learns that love is not forever.”

“A question with several possible answers comes to mind: If one man lives as though he would never die and another man lives as though he might die tomorrow, would either wear a wrist watch?”

“Will we ever have enough time?  What would happen if we only had enough time?  When will the time finally come?  Who knows where the time goes?  How far is it from time to time?  What time is the right time?  Will we know when our time has finally come?”

“Surprise is at the core of existence.  It’s true.  You never ever really know what’s coming next.” 

from the book Maybe (Maybe Not) [1993]

“Whatever we may think or believe, what we have done is our story.”

“Life is.  I am.  Anything might happen.”

“. . . since everything and anything are always possible, the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never, ever cease.”

“At age ___, I begin to realize there are some things I will never have or be able to do.”

“The varying truth perceived by many witnesses is a fact of life.”

“Professionals don’t know everything.”

“. . .  [My navel].  It’s the mark of mortality.

“Never, ever, regret or apologize for believing that when one man or one woman decides to risk addressing the world with truth, the world may stop what it is doing and her.” 

“THE MYTH OF THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ALL THE FACTS OF HISTORY.”

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all i needed to know

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Omne agens agit propter finem.    Every agent acts on account of an end.

To begin, let us focus on statements regarding human action from Thomas Aquinas, the Summa Contra Gentiles [I.II:1:6]: That is to say, every subject acts toward an end that is a good for him.

The act of love is the first of all acts and gives rise to all others.

Thomas asks whether love is the cause of all that the lover does.  His reply is brief yet incisive: “I reply that every agent acts for an end.  The end, however, is the good which is loved and desired by each thing.  Hence it is clear that every agent, whatever it may be, carries out every action from some love.”

The primacy of the person in Aquinas’ “moral universe” is evident.  The first affective motion is love (amor).  The priority of love holds not only for the passions, but also for the rational appetite or will.  Thus love is the most basic motion of the will and the principle of all moral action.  The absolutely first appetitive motion in rational beings is the love of persons.  It is this love that gives rise to all moral action, whether good or evil, since in all action the agent aims at the perfection of some person, either himself or another.  It is no surprise then to find Thomas explicitly stating this position: “The principal ends of human acts are God, self, and others, since we do whatever we do for the sake of one of these.”

BUT: “A subject isolated from sensory stimulus and social interchange begins to hallucinate rapidly and to lose all sense of reality.  Sadists who subject prisoners to solitary confinement understand intuitively that the cruelest punishment is to remove a man [or woman] from the community and thereby deprive him [or her] of his [or her] humanity.  Confusion results when community is lost.

HEALTH DEPENDS UPON THE CONVICTION THAT OUR ACTIONS COUNT.  I remain potent only so long as I get feedback which demonstrates that the force of my action is felt…I [obtain] the knowledge of the resonance of my actions, as well as the joy of knowing that my gifts are received and appreciated.

[I become] a responsible agent, with a sense that the future is open, [and] I understand myself to be essentially in a social context, and therefore my fundamental desires always involve other persons.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

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“…Perdition catch my soul // But I do love thee! //  And when I love thee not, // Chaos is come again.”  (Othello 3.3.90-92)

 Is life fair?  Lately, some view life’s unfairness, then decide that the world–including, especially, politics–is nothing but chaos.

J.B. [the poetic drama] by Archibald MacLeish, relates, for the modern audience, the familiar story of the Biblical Job.  Both have the main character asking the recognizable likeness of “Why me?” or “What did we do to deserve this?” or “Why does it always happen to us?”  The answer? 

“MacLeish’s Job answers the problem of human suffering, not with theology or psychology, but by choosing to go on living and creating new life.”  Job looks for love.  “Instead of giving up on the unfair world and life, instead of looking outward, to churches or to nature, for answers . . . look . . . for loving.”

“Why bad things happen to good people [now becomes] no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” — Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, 1981.

*Chaos is the confusion that exists before order is established in the universe.  (See Chaos theory; John Milton and Chaos.)   

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“An APHORISM is a short pithy or terse saying expressing or embodying a general truth; a maxim; an astute observation.”

Power tends to corrupt . . .  absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Be not the first by whom the new are tried . . .  nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

Fools rush in . . .  where angels fear to tread.

An ounce of prevention . . .  is worth a pound of cure.

Better safe . . . than sorry.

Measure twice . . .  cut once.

The devil you know . . .  is worse than the devil you don’t.

The love of money . . .  is the root of all evil.

If the gold rusts . . .  what will the iron do?

Time and tide . . .  wait for no man.

Neither a borrower . . .  nor a lender be.

Keep your friends close . . .  and your enemies closer.

The early bird . . .  gets the worm.

De gustibus . . .  non disputandum est.

Ignorance is bliss . . .  where tis folly to be wise.

What goes around . . .  comes around.

[All] good things . . .  come to those who wait.

You get what you deserve . . .  deserve what you get.

Never look a gift-horse . . .  in the mouth.

Nihil . . .  ex nihilo fit.

A rolling stone . . .  gathers no moss.

Beware the green-eyed monster . . .  jealousy.

Hell hath no fury . . .  like a woman scorned.

Haste . . .  makes waste.

Birds of a feather . . .  flock together.

Familiarity . . .  breeds contempt.

Waste not . . .  want not.

Absence makes the heart . . .   grow fonder.

Spare the rod . . .   spoil the child.

Don’t throw the baby out . . .  with the bathwater.

Bonum ex integra causa . . .  malum ex quocumque defectu.

Stick and stones may break my bones . . .  but names will never hurt me.

A bird in the hand . . .  is worth two in the bush.

The enemy of my enemy . . .  is my friend.

[Ed. note: in 2016: Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy.]

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UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD MANUAL

The Army defines leadership as the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.

Leadership is the multiplying and unifying element of combat power. Confident, competent, and informed leadership intensifies the effectiveness of all other elements of combat power by formulating sound operational ideas and assuring discipline and motivation in the force.

Good leaders are the catalyst for success. Effective leadership can compensate for deficiencies in all the warfighting functions because it is the most dynamic element of combat power. The opposite is also true; poor leadership can negate advantages in warfighting capabilities.

An Army leader, by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility, inspires and influences people to accomplish organizational goals. Army leaders motivate people to pursue actions, focus thinking, and shape decisions for the greater good of the organization.

Army doctrine describes essential leadership attributes (character, presence, and intellect) and competencies (lead, develop, and achieve). These attributes and competencies mature through lifelong learning.

Leadership is crucial in dealing with civilians in any conflict or disaster. Face-to-face contact with people in the area of operations encourages cooperation between civilians and Soldiers.

Army leaders strive for the willing cooperation of multinational military and civilian partners.

Leadership in today’s operational environment is often the difference between success and failure.

Leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation in all operations. Through training and by example, leaders develop cultural awareness in Soldiers. This characteristic improves Soldiers’ ability to cope with the ambiguities of complex environments.

Leadership ensures Soldiers understand the purpose of operations and use their full capabilities.

Army leaders clarify purpose and mission, direct operations, and set the example for courage and competence.

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“To tell or not to tell. That is the question.”

Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups who do not have the “need to know.”

What is kept hidden is recognized as the secret.

(But a person with a secret may want or need to tell it to another not affected by secrecy.)

“Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”?

The discussion of secrecy can often be controversial, depending on the content or nature of the secret, the group or person keeping the secret, and the reason behind the need for secrecy.

Persons often attempt to consciously conceal from others their own selves or acts or transgressions because of shame or guilt, or from fear (perhaps of violence), or from being rejected by another.

Secrets may be intimate to a single person, or sometimes part of an issue within a family, the “family secret.” (See Vital Lies, Simple Truths by Daniel Goleman.)

Disclosure of personal secrets has its pitfalls. Yet keeping a secret may be healthy and advantageous to one’s psychological self.

At the same time, secrecy can be a major source of human conflict, involving lying in order to not reveal. This can also lead to a number of psychological repercussions.

Sophocles: “Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.”

Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, once said “Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

Scripture: “…and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Num. 32:23)

Yet if it’s a one-time transgression, perhaps it might be worth keeping that secret. Some therapists, however, might say honesty is important if there is to be healing in a relationship. Nevertheless, sometimes there really is more damage caused by a telling.

And the answer to the original question? One must weigh the consequences, both to self and to someone else. Will either be better off?

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James Stockdale, an eight-year prisoner of war in Vietnam, a vice admiral, a college professor, a college president, and a vice presidential candidate, proposed a “discipline founded by Socrates–a discipline committed to the position that there is such a thing as central, objective truth and that what is ‘just’ transcends self interest.”

What will it take to get a worker, student, soldier, follower to reach a conclusion, to see the “vision” of a Stockdale leader?

The leader (or leader to be) must endorse the following:

1. You are your brother’s keeper
2. Life is not fair
3. Duty comes before defiance
4. Compulsion and free will can co exist
5. Every man can be more than he is
6. Freedom and absolute equality are a trade off
7. People do not like to be programmed
8. Living in harmonious “ant heaps” is contrary to man’s nature
9. The self-discipline of stoicism has everyday applications
10. Moral responsibility cannot be escaped.

It all seems so simple, simply put, clear. But it is not easy to be the moral leaders Stockdale wants. (Having a clear conscience is the foundation of Stockdale’s presentation.)

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