Wednesday, April 08, 2009


There's nothing much to write about lately. Work has been particularly gruelling of late: Easter week plus a grocery inventory (and whoever it was that thought the former was a good time for the latter ought to be crucified, is my view.) This Easter week has seen one of the most challenging specials we've ever run: Tropicana 2.63L (2.78 quart)  orange juice jugs for $2.97 (regular price: $6.47). By the time I'd left yesterday, we'd sold something like 24 pallets of the stuff. 
But the tortuous shifts are nicely balanced by days off. I've worked an extra day this week for the inventory, so I'll get next Saturday off in lieu. Plus the store's closed Friday for the stat holiday and Sunday for no reason I can understand. 
Anyway, it's Easter week and my mind's turning to matters religious and pseudo-religious. And so, without further ado, a topic I've been considering for some time now: the Ten Commandments.

Two of my favourite books have sections devoted to the Decalogue. In Conversations with God, Book 1, Neale Donald Walsch receives a startling  piece of information from "God": There is no such thing as the Ten Commandments.
 I'm going to quote at length here, because this passage, like so much else in the trilogy, reflects things I deeply believe.

[Before I launch into this, if I may make one suggestion consistent with the received wisdom of the conversation: if the word "God" in this offends you on some level, feel free to substitute from the following list of synonyms as appropriate: Love. Life. The Universe. Freedom. Joy.]

(God) ...I will begin with a statement that will startle you--and perhaps offend the sensitivities of many people. There are no such things as the Ten Commandments.
(Neale) Oh, my God, there aren't?
(God) No, there are not. Who would I command? Myself? And why would such commandments be required? Whatever I want, is. N'est-ce pas? How is it therefore necessary to command anyone?
And, if I did issue commandments, would they not be automatically kept? How could I wish something to be so so badly that I would command it--and then sit by and watch it not be so?
What kind of a king would do that? What kind of a ruler?
And yet I tell you this: I am neither a king nor a ruler. I am simply--and awsomely--the Creator. Yet the Creator does not rule, but merely creates, creates--and keeps on creating.
I have created you--blessed you--in the image and likeness of Me. And I have made certain promises and commitments to you. I have told you, in plain language, how it will be with you when you become as one with Me.
You are, as Moses was, an earnest seeker. Moses too, as you do now, stood before Me, begging for answers. "Oh, God of My Fathers," he called. "God of my God, deign to show me. Give me a sign, that I may tell my people! How can we know that we are chosen?"
And I came to Moses, even as I have come to you now, with a divine covenant--an everlasting promise--a sure and certain commitment. "How can I be sure?" Moses asked plaintively. "Because I have told you so," I said. "You have the Word of God."
And the Word of God was not a commandment, but a covenant. These, then, are the...

You shall know that you have takent the path to God, and you shall know that you have found God, for there will be these signs, these indicators, these changes in you:

1. You shall love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. And there shall be no other God set before Me. No longer will you worship human love, or success, or money, or power, nor any symbol thereof. You will set aside these things as a child sets aside toys. Not because they are unworthy, but because you have outgrown them.

And, you shall know you have taken the path to God because:.

2. You shall not use the name of God in vain. Nor will you call upon Me for frivolous things. You will understand the power of words, and of thoughts, and you would not think of invoking the name of God in an unGodly manner. You shall not use my name in vain because you can not. For My name--the Great "I Am"--is never used in vain (that is, without result), nor can it ever be. And when you have found God, you shall know this.

And, I give you these other signs as well:

3. You shall remember to keep a day for Me, and you shall call it holy. This, so you do not long stay in your illusion, but cause yourself to remember who and what you are. And then shall you soon call every day the Sabbath, and every moment holy.

4. You shall honor your mother and your father--and you will know you are the Son of God when you honor your Father/Mother God in all that you say or do or think. And even as you so honor the Mother/Father God, and your father and mother on Earth (for they have given you life), so, too, will you honor everyone.

5. You know you have found God when you observe that you will not murder (that is, willfully kill, without cause.) For while you will understand that you  can not end another's life in any event (all life is eternal), you will not choose to terminate any particular incarnation, nor change any life energy from one form to another, without the most sacred justification. Your new reverence for life will cause you to honor all life forms--including plants, trees, and animals--and to impact them only when it is for the highest good.

And these other signs will I send you also, that you may know you are on the path:

6. You will not defile the purity of love with dishonesty or deceit, for this is adulterous. I promise you, when you have found God, you shall not commit this adultery.

7. You will not take a thing that is not your own, nor cheat, nor connive, nor harm another to have any thing, for this would be to steal. I promise you, when you have found God, you shall not steal. 

Nor shall you...

8.  Say a thing that is not true, and thus bear false witness.

Nor shall you...

9. Covet your neighbor's spouse, for why would you covet your neighbor's spouse when you know all others are your spouse?

10. Covet your neighbor's goods,  for why would you want your neighbor's goods when you know that all goods can be yours, and all your goods belong to the world?

(from Conversations with God: an uncommon dialogue, Book 1, by Neale Donald Walsch. pp 94-97
As food for thought. It certainly makes for an interesting reinterpretation. At least, I think so. 

The other book with much to say on the commandments is Robert Heinlein's farewell novel, To Sail Beyond The Sunset. The book takes the form of a biography of one Maureen Johnson, "amoral wench"...and the details of her exploits over her exceptionally long life make for fascinating, if occasionally off-putting, reading. Like much of Heinlein's later work, To highly polemical. Through Maureen, Heinlein holds much of the world in high disdain and bitterly laments that most of the values he embodies--intelligence, self-reliance, patriotism, courage--are held in such disdain themselves. 
Heinlein was an iconoclast who lived under his own moral code. His Eleventh Commandment--"don't get caught"--stood him in good stead when his values and morals contradicted those in vogue where and when he lived. Maureen is much the same.
Anyway, very early in the novel, Maureen's father asks her to complete an assignment for him: to formulate her own Commandments. Reading what she produces and her father's wise and reasoned rebuttals had me pining for a society where kids are actually taught how to think critically about this sort of thing, if not by their parents, at least by the school system. 

Maureen's finished list:

1. Thou shalt pay public homage to the god favored by the majority without giggling or even smiling behind your back.

2. Thou shalt not make any graven image of a sort that could annoy the powers that be, especially Mrs. Grundy...

3. Thou shalt not take the name of thy Lord God in vain...which means don't swear, not even Jiminy or Golly or darn, or any of those four-letter words, or anything that Mother might consider vulgar.  (Her father softened this somewhat, but also added: Thou shalt not split infinitives, or dangle participles. Thou shalt shun solecisms. Thou shalt honor the noble English language, speech of Shakespeare, Milton, and Poe, and it will serve thee all the days of thy life.

4. Go to church on Sundays. Smile and be pleasant but don't be too smarmily a hypocrite. Don't let my children, if and when I have any, play out in front on Sunday or make too much noise in back. Support the church in deeds and money but not too conspicuously.
("Maureen, that's well put. You'll be a preacher's wife yet."
"Oh, God, Father, I'd rather be a whore!"
"The two are not incompatible.")

5. Honor thy father and thy mother where anyone can see you. But once you leave home, live your own life. Don't let them lead you around by the nose. (This was inserted at the insistence of her father.)

6. Thou shalt not commit murder (kill someone wrongfully.) Maureen says she's still working on that one. Her father says "So am I."

7. Don't get caught committing adultery...don't get pregnant, don't catch a social disease, don't let Mrs. Grundy even suspect you, and above all don't let your spouse find out. (Her father tells her "if you've just gotta--and the day might come--tell your husband what's biting you, ask his permission, ask for his help, ask him to stand jigger for you...he might give you a fat lip, but he won't divorce you for asking. Then he might help you anyhow, on the sound theory that you would get into worse trouble if he says No. And--he might discover he enjoys the role.)

8. Thou shalt not steal. "I couldn't improve that one, Father."
"Would you steal to feed a baby?"
"Uh, yes."
"Think about other exceptions; we'll discuss it in a year or two.  But it's a good general rule. But why won't you steal? You're smart; you can probably get away with stealing all your life. Why won't you do it?"
"...because I'm too stinkin' proud!"
"Exactly! Perfect.")

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.  Don't tell lies that can hurt other people...but since you can't guess ahead of time what harm your lies may do, the only safe rule is not to tell any lies at all.

("Maureen, this one we will not dispose of in an afternoon. A liar is worse to have around than a thief...yet I would rather cope with a liar than with a person who takes self-righteous pride in telling the truth, all of the truth and all of the time...a person who takes pride in telling the blunt truth is a sadist, not a saint.")
(from To Sail Beyond the Sunset, by Robert A. Heinlein, pages 25 et seq.)


So...what are your commandments? I'll show you mine if you show me yours.


Rocketstar said...

if the word "God" in this offends you on some level, feel free to substitute from the following list of synonyms as appropriate: Love. Life. The Universe. Freedom. Joy.]
---I'll be back later when I have more time to read it all but the first thing I think of when folks say that God is love or Life or something to that effect is...

There is already a word for love, it's love. So why call it God? ;o)

Ken Breadner said...

So don't. That's the thing I found liberating about Conversations with Whatever--the god in that book doesn't expect, much less demand, that you believe in it. Several times the reader is cautioned not to accept anything in there as holy writ. For a book that's supposedly a conversation with God, I found that refreshing.
To answer your question, though, Rocket--to most people, God *isn't* Life, the Universe, and Everything. People say God is Love and then have this loving God doing all kinds of unlovely judging beings He supposedly created, finding them wanting, and throwing them in hell forever more, just to name one example.
I think those synonym suggestions are there to widen perceptions and let people feel as comfortable as possible with the material. And to distance the concept of "God" from the one most people have--which, according to this trilogy at least, is almost completely wrong.

Rocketstar said...

So...what are your commandments? I'll show you mine if you show me yours

How about… (with only a little deep thought given)

1.Question Everything!
2.Treat others as you would like to be treated
3.Do not blindly believe anything you hear or read and half of what you see.
4.Understand that YOU are the driver of your life, not anybody or any supernatural mystery power.
5.Success will be created by your hard work and perseverance.
6.Respect every living creature.
7.Study, Teach and Trust Science, Reason and Logic in depth for your entire existence.
8.Do not waste your time on this planet because as far as we know, you only get one chance at life.
9.If something appears to be too good to be true, believe that it isn’t true because it most likely is not true.
10.Do not seek happiness from external means as happiness comes from within.

So what are yours? I think I'll link your post with my 10 in a future post, interesting idea.