Water in the Hole

Kids like to dig holes in the sand. On vacation you have one week to get as much fun as possible from the beach. The daily digging of the hole becomes a vacation ritual of joy and discovery. Some days the kids make a hole and pour water from the ocean into it to see what happens and other days they dig deep enough to see it fill with water naturally which is so cool since that doesn’t happen in the sandbox back home. A channel for waves to fill the hole, or a tunnel under the sand is an exercise in engineering that may become the foundation for intellectual interests or possibly a career. Building a sandcastle or sculpting a face in the sand may lead to art and design. The process of collaborating with siblings and fellow vacationers to reach a goal builds cooperation and leadership skills. The success or failure of the attempt is secondary to the value of the effort, it is just sand; it may be gone by morning. Destruction could come from wind, rain or some other person.

So much of what we do as humans is transitory. We transform ideals into physical manifestations that return to abstractions with the passage of time and weather and other natural events. Stonehenge, or animal shapes drawn with the earth that are only visible from the sky, or the stone ruins of sugar mills dotting a Caribbean Island show us what’s left of previous efforts by humans. Some of the original thoughts of the humans who made the objects are clear, a mill processes sugar cane for example. Other remnants remain enigmatic after time passes and the constructions deteriorate. Nature does this in spite of the effort and labor that went into the creation. From a certain perspective it could all be considered futile.

All of humanity’s industry returns to a state of disintegrated miscellany. We make order while nature prefers a condition we perceive as chaos. It is our nature to seek coherence through structure. Should this be considered a rebellion against the natural world? We build cities and industries and automobiles and then we maintain them, giving them a form of resistance to nature’s desire. The more permanence we create the more nature fights back. Climate change is nature’s way of combating permanence.

We use the raw materials of nature to build order, but we are constantly deconstructing other forms of order at the same time. Just like the wind, we tear down human constructions. Sometimes we do it for sport, sometimes we do it for rewards, and sometimes we do it because of our of ideologies. We also tend to favor our own philosophies of order over another’s beliefs about what order looks like. People who emulate the dogma valued by one group are considered “good” and those who emulate another set of beliefs are often considered “bad”. The value judgments of good or bad have to do with the particular form of order we support. The form of order known as ‘Democrat’ supports diversity and compassion as personified in the actions of President Obama. The form of order known as ‘Republican’ supports a dogma defined in their election platform and personified by King Trump and The Royal Pence-men. Immigrants are ‘good’ in the Democrat’s ‘form of order’ and bad in the Republican system. You could substitute any number of issues or types of people for the word immigrants in the sentence above such as: LGBT, women’s rights, Muslims, minorities and so on.

In my lifetime we have moved from a culture that honors virtue as the measure of a person’s merit (regardless of political ideology) to a new priority: honoring allegiance to ideological structures over virtue. Commonly acknowledged virtues were fairly universal after WWII, but that unity has become polarized. Today we see Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, (see note below) finding significance in the way certain moral foundations are prioritized by conservatives vs. liberals. Liberals consider Care and Fairness as the primary foundations of morality while Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity are primary for conservative morality.  So, if your loyalty is to Trump who sanctifies greed, then care of others and fairness in pay, housing, health care, equal treatment, etc. are irrelevant. The word ‘morality’ has no universal, common meaning.

Authority means allegiance to a code of hierarchy, Loyalty keeps you bound to the code of that authority, and Sanctity binds your allegiance to the abstraction of ‘holiness’ which usually is codified as Christianity for Republicans. Care and Fairness are based in empathy and compassion, while Authority, Sanctity and Loyalty are based in codes. Conservatives place moral judgments upon an individual’s inclination to follow the established code, or rules. A key feature of rules is that they are inviolable unless changing them can be shown to provide benefits. So, when President Obama evolved on his understanding of LGBT rights he grew in his ability to empathize with our struggles. He attempted to adjust the laws to accommodate the care and fairness of this minority. He tore down the unfeeling laws and replaced them with more humane rules as best he could. Within the liberal mindset this was the moral thing to do.

Conservatives value the old rules and disregard compassion/empathy for what they consider the foundations of morality – Rules. The sanctity of straight sex is a rule they must defend. (They seem to obsess on rules about sex for some reason. Especially rules about the plumbing of sex. Sad.) The rules they are willing to change, however, are the ones that address care and fairness such as environmental concerns. Those changes are motivated by greed. For some reason Evangelical Christians are willing to breath foul air and drink contaminated water in exchange for having the sexual plumbing rules put back the way they want.

We can’t fault nature, but we must continue to behave in the manner of humans; it is our natural state of being. We must fight for our own definition of order whether in a religious, political, or philosophical framework, hell, it could simply be self-interest such as greed, (and plumbing?) the iconic element(s) of the Trump Cabinet. We are obligated by nature to assert our definition of order. Free thinkers will become the new opposition and promote the destruction of Trump-ism as Republicans build their hypocritical version of order.

Tomorrow, we’ll get up and dig a new hole.




I have to confess that I threw Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind away a little past 3/4 of the way into it. I never do that with books, especially ones I refer to often but it made me mad. I felt a very smart man who writes well was making a clever argument very slowly and with a lot of words, hoping that we wouldn’t notice he forgot some stuff. I am not a psychologist, but I have studied persuasion. My reaction to the book was that I was being manipulated. Sorry if I manipulated his 5 foundations into something he may not like.


So, what's on your mind?