Connect the Dots for Morality

11 09 2012

By: Marjan A. Dorbayani, PhD

Always remember my grandma’s advice on keeping an open mind. She would always remind us that we have 2 eyes and 2 ears, but just 1 mouth, so we should listen and read twice as much before drawing a conclusion and voicing it.

It also reminds me of the first preschool drawing lessons where we were instructed to connect the numbered dots in order to find the hidden shapes: a house, a tree, a pond.

You may have wondered why we needed that lesson. We may still overlook the intended lesson of it sometimes, and fail to practice to apply it to real life situations to help us study dimensions and aspects of the on-going matters rather than mindlessly following others and avoiding clichés such as ‘everyone says’ or ‘everyone believes’. So simple, yet so difficult for many of us.

  • Keep an open mind,
  • Listen,
  • Watch,
  • Connect the Dots/Information,
  • Draw your own Conclusion.

Why?

To make better decisions for our future, for our families, and for our society;

To avoid getting abused or even unknowingly abusing others;

To lead happier, more meaningful lives, and to live in a moral society.

If we see what others want us to see, hear what they want us to hear, our insights would certainly be biased and our morality tainted.

Recently I came across a book written by a neuroscientist, a Dr Paul J. Zak in title of The Moral Molecule, the Source of Love and Prosperity. In his presentation on Ted.com, he takes us through the same process mentioned above.

As an altar boy, the author explains how he observed people in church, his mother, Sister Mary Marastela, his friends, teachers, neighbours, etc. (Listening & Watching) He then wonders whether people who were religious and non-religious were equally obsessed with morality. (Connecting the Dots) His inquisitive mind drives him to thoughts like maybe there is some earthly basis for moral decisions, maybe there is a chemistry of morality or there is a moral molecule. (Keeping an Open Mind) After 10 years of experiments, he finally finds it. It is what’s called, ‘Oxytocin’, a hormone responsible for trust, empathy and morality. (Drawing an Unbiased Conclusion)

In his experiments with test subjects, he also came across a small proportion of individuals who did not respond to stimuli, i.e. did not trust mainly due to reasons associated with their troublesome family background or nurturing, inappropriate incidents, abusive relationships, etc. Now imagine if we let this kind of individuals dictate our way of life.

One conclusion I can draw here is that when we let one school of thought dictate our way of life, we have practically allowed our lives controlled and manipulated, hence abused. Getting entangled by one school of thought or having ourselves imprisoned by their abusive powers and constant warnings or threats of painful sins and miseries as a consequence is like letting our old reflexive system hold the steering wheel while we get intoxicated by the abuse, the paradox of which is the knowledge that we are worse off in the long run, yet unable to get out of it for being under its influence, i.e. addicted. (Read ‘Why Can Killing Brain Cells Feel Good’ by Gary Marcus in Feb 2012 issue of Newsweek)

As soon as we surrender to being controlled, we turn into mindless machines under an intoxicating influence, miserable and addicted, and … may I leave it with you here to “Connect the Dots” for yourself.

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