Ethically Challenged is Not Necessarily Negative

There is poetry in all of us, whether we know it or believe it or not. Some of the poetry is stunning in its beauty and its clarity. Last night, I received a poem from a friend (who wrote the pem), along with a message saying the author doesn’t write poems. But the beauty of the poem argued, forcefully, otherwise. The poem’s title and its message hit home for me. For me, it expressed an aspect of sorrow we often keep hidden beneath layers of guilt. The poem expressed much more for me, but I like to hold close some elements poems’ messages to me.


If I had been able to fully record last night’s vivid dream, it would have made a long, if incomplete, short story. My oldest brother and I, along with several other people both living and dead, were returning home from a bizarre trip to the grocery store when we were caught in heavy traffic. I was driving my brother’s car, a small Japanese vehicle with whose brand name I was not familiar and which I cannot recall this morning. Suddenly, I had to hit the brakes, but I had a hard time lifting my knees. I finally hit the brake pedal, but the car was very slow to respond. I almost slammed into a car in front of us. When we got to the front of the line, we realized it was a both a border crossing and a COVID-19 vaccination spot. When our turn came, we were asked to get out of the car, where we were questioned. My brother’s situation was unclear, as his documents indicated he and his car were from Mexico, but the rest of us were from the U.S. (we were clear). At some point, a drunk old hillbilly with many missing teeth claimed I had sideswiped his truck and threatened me. I threatened back and we both were ready to respond to the other’s first punch. But he left and another person I know, but who was not traveling with us, told us how to get in line for the vaccine. We followed her advice, which involved having our hair done in the COVID vaccination clinic, as in a permanent (we learned that was to avoid a side-effect of the vaccine, which was said to be alopecia). There was much more, but it made no more sense than the first part. I awoke during an interrogation following my vaccination.


Today is Bob’s last day with me. I take him to the Animal Welfare League building today so the folks there can begin preparations for his journey, very early tomorrow morning, to New England and a new home. Yesterday, when I took him in for the veterinarian’s examination, she told me he already has been adopted. He will meet his new humans upon arrival. I’m glad for Bob, and for me, but I’ll really miss Bob. He’s been with me for only two and a half weeks, but we’ve developed a bond. An upside of his departure, though, will be the slow dissipation of dog-odor in every room of the house. The joys and sorrows of pet relationships.


Last night, during a periodic videoconference with a couple of friends (one in New England, one in the DC area), I learned that the wife of the NE friend had 36 hours of moderate side-effects from her second Moderna vaccination (she’s a nurse). I imagine that’s what I should expect after I have my vaccination on April 1. Before my shot, I’ll prepare a little bedside comfort package, but I am not sure what it will contain. I should ask people who have gone through the brief “flu-like symptoms” what they wanted/needed during their short reaction.


After Bob’s departure, and after current calendar obligations are met, I will withdraw from the world for much of the several following days. My purpose is to get back on track with respect to paperwork, taxes, financial recordkeeping, and the like. I have allowed myself to get badly behind during Bob’s stay with me. It’s not Bob’s fault, of course, it’s mine. I have a tendency to allow even minor interruptions to my day to sidetrack me for the entire day and then some. It’s a bad habit or personality trait or excuse or whatever. Regardless of the cause, I will become something of a recluse for a while until I feel my head popping up above the sea of paperwork. I may make some exceptions, interrupting my reclusiveness for poetry and the right conversations.


I remember discussions about “situational ethics” from my college days. Arguments raged about whether ethics are steadfast and unbendable or, instead, malleable and subject to adjustment subject to the environment in which ethics are expected to control behavior. No one won the arguments. Regardless of the position taken, someone always presented hypothetical circumstances that crushed the position. I came to the conclusion, ultimately, that ethics are, by nature, situational. The situation may be cultural or circumstantial or, perhaps, something else. But there’s always a legitimate argument to be made to negate ethical positions. In the final analysis, ethics are choices we make; either to abide by reasonable limits on behaviors or to refuse to go along with unreasonable restrictions on our ability to live our lives as we please. And everything in between.


Okay. I’m done for now.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Ethically Challenged is Not Necessarily Negative

  1. David, consider corporal punishment. Some people (and some cultures) consider it perfectly ethical to spank a child as part of his/her training. But other cultures find corporal punishment utterly unethical. Is it or is it not? And if not, is the culture that subscribes to it an unethical culture?

  2. davidlegan says:

    I would argue that ethics are not situational. Situations are situational. Sometimes, particularly in the extreme circumstances that coneheads use to argue their position, it may be ethical to simply ignore the ethics, but the ethics themselves did not change. Damn, some things simply MUST be fixed. Like Polaris, the North Star. We may sometimes choose not to navigate by it, but it never moves.

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