Monday, May 23, 2011

The Ten More Commandments

No offense to God, but His Commandments are of rather limited use.

"Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not commit adultery" are important things, of course. I'm glad they're canon, because in our fragile and rather stupid society they might be kind of hard to enforce if they came from a lesser authority than Himself. And not coveting? Hey, that's something we all need to remember, whether it's an ass or a neighbor's wife or a neighbor's ass.

I guess it's not the Commandments themselves I take issue with; it's their tone. It's so "follow these rules or else." And the "or else" is nothing short of Hell. Ulp. That's pretty intimidating. Plus, I can't help but wonder how the stone tablets are supposed to gibe with the idea of free will. Yes, the Lord has dominion over us all and is, if you believe His rap, He Who Must Be Obeyed. So there have to be rules set down for us; even He can't monitor the halls every second. Still, as a Catholic I can confirm that the Commandments are more successful at instilling guilt than reverence in the pursuit of obedience to His will.

In particular, I'm conflicted about how unequivocal is the injunction to "Honor thy father and mother." Like the other nine, this Commandment lays out your course of action pretty straight. What Mom and Dad say goes. And that's handy when your kids are, say, three. But like all parents, most of the time I hope my Precocious Daughter will live for many decades after I'm gone. The thought that she might spend that entire time blindly following what anyone says - let alone her dipstick parents - makes me nervous.

I just don't have confidence that my counsel will always be the best she encounters. Lord knows I'm subject to say and do things that don't stand up to the light of wisdom or even common sense. Most likely PDaughter can best honor her father and me by showing the good judgment to not listen to every crackpot thing we tell her.

And as for the other Commandments, as valuable as their commands may be, I don't want her to limit her journey through life to the path they lay out. Nor do I want her to fall victim to people who twist them to their own selfish ends at her expense. I want her to temper faith with reason, and vice versa. That way she'll honor God by living up to the promise of His creation, not by being a passive lump of rib meat walking the Earth.

To that end, I've devised some commandments of my own - not to replace the ones in the Bible, but to tie them more firmly to the real world. I kind of wish I'd had and followed these guidelines myself when I was younger. Of course, knowing PDaughter, she'll take all 20 of these commandments - the Lord's and my supplements - and cherry-pick them into a world view that far surpasses anything I had in mind when I gave them to her.

And even if doesn't look exactly like obedience and humility, that'll be OK in my eyes. And I daresay, in His.

The Ten More Commandments

I. We are your parents. When it comes to screwing things up, we will show you how it’s done.

II. Thou shalt develop both a spine and a brain, and use them together to make your point.

III. In everything you do, think and believe, and let the better instinct win.

IV. Obey your parents (but we won’t stop loving you even if you don’t).

V. Thou shalt make your choices and take responsibility for them.

VI. Thou shalt eventually make some really stupid mistakes and learn from them.

VII. Thou shalt develop standards and live by them.

VIII. Thou shalt remember that the consequences of doing something are almost always easier to live with than the consequences of doing nothing.

IX. Thou shalt respect yourself and your body and not let anyone tell you to do otherwise.

X. Thou shalt pursue your dreams, come hell or high water.

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