My mother was fond of pithy platitudes. Two of her favorites were, “What goes around, comes around” and “Better be good to people on your way up; you might need them on your way back down.” Or, as my writing colleague Mike Ellerkamp likes to say, “Reciprocity works.” So convinced is he of the value of the Golden Rule approach to life, he wrote a book about it: The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered.” I asked him to write a guest blog about what prompted him to write the book. Here’s his answer. Thank you, Mike Ellerkamp.
What got me to write my book?
I have from my earliest memory felt that there was (is) a bigger “self out there.” My family was not religious so I was left to hunt for answers on my own. Now, I admit I’ve always believed in GOD. That led me on a long hunt for something that completed me. Something that was a standard, could be embraced openly, was hard to refute, and made sense. I spent many years in a Bible study. I found this very fulfilling until I overheard the Pastor express his opinion about Apartheid. The Bible study was filling some of those criteria above, but politics blew it all up. If you’re curious about that story; it is the one I tell in The Simple Little Rule.
My Apartheid moment sent me searching again.
Another test ought to be, is God’s word true? Can we read and understand it without a middleman. When I read scriptures, they appeal to my inner sense of three important aspects of our existence. John Locke was the first to describe the three human rights Life, Liberty and Property. I found that these kept appearing in my studies. The scriptures are filled with references of them – not the words exactly, but the concepts. The Ten Commandments contain the sense of Life, Liberty and Property.
God seems to be asking that we align with his basic purpose. I found the most repeated phrase in our literature is that phrase referred to as the Golden Rule. Phrases like: “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” “Do to others, as you would have done to yourself;” “Treat others the way you would like to be treated;” “Do not treat others in a way that would be abhorrent to you.” There are many variations of this sentence across the globe, in all early cultures, and in all world religions. All the major philosophers taught versions of this principle. With a little patience you’ll find it in every developed culture’s literature. When I realized this, I felt I had found my truth.
Why does the Golden Rule represent my Truth?
Why on earth would I come to believe that the Golden Rule represented my Truth? First, its simplicity! It is easy to understand. Second, its clarity! It is not ambiguous. Third, its power! It applies to all sentient creatures, but especially to a rational creature with volition; but not just volition; it is beyond just “a faculty of choice.” We are creatures with free will, the freedom to choose! What we choose determines our state of mind, and with comes great power! This gift of great power produces tremendous responsibilities. By default, we are stewards of our environment. Our harmony as humans depends on how we fulfill our inherited responsibilities.
Once I realized this, I found the answer to my dilemma. I began to realize part of our social problems results from separating ourselves from this Truth. Treat others with respect, and they will reciprocate. Be honest with your neighbors, they will be honest back.
Applying the Golden Rule to a book.
What triggered my desire to capture these ideas about the Golden Rule into book form evolved from what appears to me to be a breakdown of common-sense ideals and standards. I saw it in our schools, political system, military and business communities. Philosophers taught that walking away from Golden Rule principles would cause a break down in society. This pattern has happened in cycles throughout human history. It occurred to me we are heading into another collapse if we do not return to these truth principles. I began to write down my ideas, which included ideas for how we can be confident about our decision making regarding daily life issues.
In addition to the Golden Rule, I found another frequently mentioned principle that seems to support the idea seeking Truth puts us on the best path. Falling off this path, creates an abundance of disharmony and discord. I observed this condition as I was working on my book.
Four principles we need to apply.
We lose our way when we refuse to use the tools laid before us, which leads to lack of harmony and losing track of any sense of purpose. I have studied many different scriptures since leaving that Bible study thirty plus years ago. They all imply there is a purpose for our being here and for the most part, suggest that purpose is to find harmony. To do that, there are four standards we need to meet. We need to adapt a universal view towards our fellow companions. We must hold everyone accountable to the same standard. Then, we must be neutral, applying a common standard so everyone is treated fairly, equally. We will must apply them in a consistent way, not flip-flopping on the issues, a common problem currently. Finally, we must be transparent about our standards. Applying these four simple standards could resolve most of our problems. (See The Simple Little Rule for more details on these standards.)
Focusing on a plan and purpose.
Once I realized there is a plan and purpose for us, I felt I had to become one of the community voices expressing the importance of accepting this plan and purpose. A commonsense understanding of our existence seems to be assaulted from every direction. The notion humans engage in a conscious decision-making process is often considered silly and even an illusion. Some scientists claim that belief we are thinking is just an illusion! If we deliver our sense of self over to another who seeks to grasp control of every aspect of our lives, we enter the realm of chaos. Disharmony ensues.
We are meant to be self-reliant, self-determining, self-directed, inter-connected participants in one large human community. Achieving these liberties requires responsibility! Avoiding responsibility eliminates the liberties and reduces the harmony for our society.
The role of the Golden Rule
I came to this understanding when I rediscovered the Golden Rule. All that we have is born out of our curiosity, motivation, enthusiasm, and all of these are purely mental states, which are ours to adapt, modify and enforce. While we haven’t always been at our best, we are abundantly better off now than at any time in our past, by any measure you wish to apply. How much further can we go?
It is up to us. Don’t let others steal your ability to succeed (or fail) because that is our purpose. Clearly our purpose is striving, achieving, making a better place for all. This is how I came to write my book, and why I continue to work on the second book, Develop a Culture of Harmony. I want to help my neighbors understand how to accomplish this.