Thursday, 13 July 2017

On Right, Wrong, and Guilt.

We learn the list of rights and wrongs as defined by the culture in the process of growing up, through lectures and remonstrations from parents, teachers and the powers that be. We enshrine it in law and a set of vague and variable diktats called morality.

But it seems to me that a more meaningful notion of right and wrong is a much more subtle and instinctive thing, and to some extent it’s even personal. And what’s more to the point, much of it is learned through experience both objective and subjective.

I was thinking today of something I did when I was nineteen, something which detrimentally affected the lives and states of mind of three innocent people. I had no spur to prick the sides of my intent save personal interest. It didn’t seem wrong to me at the time; it was merely an adventure. Now it does.

So should I feel guilty? It’s a moot point.

There are those who say that guilt is pointless because it doesn’t change anything. I’ve said as much myself. Others will philosophise that there’s no such thing as right and wrong; there is only action and consequence on a road which might or might not be illusory. I’ve said that, too.

But maybe there is some real value to a sense of right and wrong, and maybe guilt is the tool we use to modify it through experience. So maybe we should be a little more forgiving of the transgressions of youth, because there but for the grace of God go we all.

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