Introducing Discernment

January 31, 2007

The world is too complex for our brains to handle, as evidenced by how quickly humans flock to any organization or guru who claims to have all the answers. Would it not be wonderful is a great person or great mind could sever all grey into black and white? Would it not be joyous if the nebulous haze of daily decision-making were replaced by a rubric which told one how to act and how to think in any and all situations?

Cattle obey their hunger and their instinct. Rivers follow gravity. We, as humans, oftentimes subjugate our will much as a mindless cow does. It is easy to find a set of rules purporting to tell you how to live in any and all situations. And yet, if your church tells you what to do in all situations through a set of simple rules, find a new church. If your guru tells you a simple set of rules to simplify all actions, find a better sage.

Life is complex -- the decisions we make as moral creatures are well beyond the capacity of even the most powerful computer. And no simple or easy rules can tell you exactly what to do in any situation. Life is a problem that can't be solved in a few lines of code.

Discernment is the virtue of looking beyond any one set rule at a moral problem. Discernment is the use of one's mind to weigh the good and the bad and the beautiful and the ugly. Discernment is a heavy responsibility -- it would be much easier were we to subjugate our will to some authority. But then, we would be abducting our responsibility as moral creatures. We would be living lives less perfect than we could.