Ethics – Notes

My notes aren’t perfect. I didn’t include some of the details from our discussions, mostly because some of the stories were personal experiences that I’m not sure others want shared electronically. But I’m trying to cover all the important bases.

To begin, we defined morality. Morality is a code or system of behavior not based on cause and effect. It’s the idea that you do something because someone “said so” without any explanation of the consequences of NOT doing it. An example would be the 10 Commandments.

We went over the definitions of ethics in our notes. An example of ethics around us would be the legal system, an imposed kind of ethics. If you kill, you will be jailed/killed.

We don’t take money for magic because it cheapens our work. Accepting payment can lead to doing whatever it takes (even lying or casting negative magic) to get the money, ignoring ethics. We also don’t do magic for money, because simply asking for money can lead to inheriting money from a dead relative (versus doing magic for prosperity, or to find “some way” to cover your living expenses).

Our main ethical guideline comes not from the Wiccan Rede, but from the Four Tenets of Magic. They’re also known as the Witch’s Pyramid. To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Be Silent.

To Know – knowing yourself, what you’re using, what deities and energies you’re working with, who you’re practicing with

To Will – this isn’t what you WANT, it’s what your higher self brings to the focus of your knowledge and understanding

To Dare – acting on your knowledge and will… not letting fear hold you back, or sitting on your duff and waiting for things to happen around you

To Be Silent – blabbing about your workings can lead people to think negative thoughts, sending negative energies into the universe that can interfere with your own magics. Also, learning to speak your truth when it’s necessary, by having the daring and will to step forward and talk, is part of knowing when (and when not) to be silent.

One of the ethical ideas discussed was the Threefold Law. Carolynn pointed out that some form of that idea (a law of reciprocity/return for one’s actions) is found in EVERY religion. That said, it becomes a cosmic truth. Whether it’s threefold, one for one, ten times, or what have you… the idea is that your actions will indeed have consequences of some kind.

The end of our class was where a lot of discussion and personal stories/examples came into play. Like I said, I don’t and won’t notate personal stories, in case. I will say that we started discussing how each of us is changing, constantly, and that includes our personal ethics. What we’re willing to accept or stand up for/against evolves with us.

HONESTY

To simplify things, I’ve tried to recall the main quotes Carolynn used in the discussion. I know I’ve missed a few, but again, feel free to share more.

“Everything you do, or don’t do, has consequences that ripple through the world like a pebble dropped into a pond, and you are responsible for them!” (iv)

==> Our example was brushing your teeth. Not doing so has consequences. In short-term measure, you may offend people with your breath. In the long run, it could cost thousands of dollars to fix your teeth and you could lose opportunities (i.e. jobs, relationships, etc.) due to a bad first impression with bad hygiene. On the other hand, choosing to breath your teeth has consequences too. Positively, you’ll have cleaner/healthier teeth and nicer breath. You’ll also spend lots of money on toothpaste throughout your life; this will, however, help a company that employs people, who get paychecks because the company still has business. Each time you spit it out, it goes down your drain and toward the environment in some way or another. Nothing is cut and dried, nothing is simple.

“Whether you actually do this or not [read the book, then reread and do the exercises], of course, like everything else in your life is entirely up to you. And that is the root of our ethical system. Personal responsibility.” (4)

==> What is personal responsibility to you? It’s the idea that you are responsible for every choice and action you make, and NOT acting IS an action/choice. You’re responsible for that, too.

“In most situations, tactful honesty will serve you better.” (6)

==> Even with yourself, it’s often better to be gently truthful. That is, “this pattern doesn’t look good on me” versus “god, I look SO FAT!!!”

“We must not blame our problems on others.” (8)

==> Again, WE are responsible for our actions and choices. No god or person is to blame. One example would be emotions. You choose to be angered by someone’s actions, or to be happy about your life. It’s sometimes hard to not let ourselves get angry/sad, but it is a choice we can work toward making positively.

“What we must do is look at ourselves, and our interaction with the world around us, without placing blame at all. What is past, is past. Look back and learn from it; but don’t wallow in it.” (9)

==> Dwelling on the past does us no good. It can cause us to make irrational or dishonest choices, working against our Will willingly to avoid facing a needed change.

“Understanding does not mean or imply agreement or sympathy.” (9)

==> The book uses abuse as an example. You can also look at your own emotions and reactions. Example: I understand that the loud, immature group of college guys asking about books on pot are a hot-button for me. I understand that they often lead me to allowing myself to get angry. But I don’t work around that; I choose to leave my prejudice against potheads in tact, as long as it causes no problems between me and my work. Understanding the cause of a dishonesty with yourself or a problem you face regularly, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working on/against it OR that you believe it’s right to have/be.

“Honesty. The knowledge that we can never have all of the truth. The willingness (ability) to admit our own mistakes. The willingness (ability) to learn from them. The willingness (ability) to change our minds if a new fact arises. The willingness (ability) to forgive ourselves. The willingness (ability) to be non-judgmental.” (11)

==> This is what we’re aiming for. We want to gain the abilities listed in the definition of honesty. A large part of this definition is the idea of honesty without cruelty.

“…the power to change yourself and the world around you.” (13)

==> Once we understand cause and effect, we can learn to do something in order to get x-effect. This leads to the quote above, which is very similar to your average definition of magic. Interesting, huh?

“Treat yourself gently. Be fair with yourself, and forgiving.” (13)

==> Again, don’t be cruel or judgmental. You’re not your own enemy, really! So don’t treat yourself like one. Remember that you ARE human, and humans make mistakes (and learn from them, ideally).

EXERCISES: (I’m including the questions I’m willing to share…)

[1] Define honesty.
==> It’s being truly open… listening with open ears, seeing with open eyes, thinking with an open mind, and feeling with an open heart. Becoming open leads to awareness, which leads to an understanding of cause and effect, and of your ability to change your world.

[4] I have no problem being honest with myself about…
==> My feelings about new situations/people. I am comfortable with allowing my thoughts, impressions, and instincts about a new thing flow through my mind. I don’t prejudge; instead, I let them build a mental file about that new thing. My reactions never bother me, even when I misunderstand someone/thing and find that I later like or dislike it. And the mental file naturally grows and solidifies more over time, as I interact with the new thing more.

[5] I can talk to anyone honestly about…
==> Any ideas or thoughts I’ve had or currently have. I know that I personally am comfortable with sharing anything, because I have few secrets in the first place. I’m proudly an open book, with the exception being times when doing so is dangerous for my job, health, or well-being.

[8] In a year, I would like to be a 10 on this honesty scale.

[9] I am trying for this much progress because…
==> A 10 is unattainable, perfection. But I’m the type of person that aims for the BEST, because it pushes me to do MY best in the process. I don’t get discouraged by my inability to reach that perfect 10, but instead get inspired to keep trying harder and harder, even if I were a 9.9 on the scale.

[10] Honesty is important because…
==> It’s a foundation for change and spiritual growth. Lying is like treading water; it keeps you in place, going nowhere. Also, a thought I had that I felt was important… if I can be honest with everyone in the world BUT myself, I need to examine why I find myself unworthy of the truth.

SELF

“Everyone, everywhere, was the main character in their own story, and I would never feel what they felt, or know what they knew, or see what they saw unless they told me!” (21)

==> Even walking the same path at the same time, two people will experience it differently. This is thanks to their previous lives, the experiences, thoughts, feelings, and ideas that color their day-to-day lives and perception. No two people will have gone through EXACTLY the same things, so no two people will experience any moment the same, either.

“…that everyone was as important as I was.” (21) “…that I was as important as anyone else.” (22)

==> This is a balance, knowing that both statements ring true. Balance is the point where all possible outcomes on both sides are measured and come out even. It is essentially perfection. Imagine that we are pendulums, swinging back and forth between two extremes (all about me vs all about everyone BUT me, the Mego and AntiMego). Perfect balance would mean an unmoving pendulum, stagnation. We are all constantly growing and changing, though, so it’s not possible to be so still as to reach perfect balance. (And life would be rather pointless without change, wouldn’t it?)

==> Carolynn detailed why she believes in dental ethics. She described the horrendous trials she went through, all because she lost a filling and thought it wasn’t a big deal because it didn’t hurt. Half a dozen trips to the dentist later, and she’s a wiser woman; she doesn’t miss an appointment, and that’s a strong personal ethic (to take care of her teeth before they take care of her, as it were!)

[Carolynn comment] For me, it was a lesson in not letting my fear (of the dentist) dictate what action I take. Fear kept me out of the dentist chair for a long time… I had to learn to apply that to my other ethical behaviors and not let my fear control me. I’m still working on this. I believe it will be a lifelong process.

“For many decisions, you will strive to keep the balance intact. Other decisions you will want to tip to one side or the other of the ledger, where you perceive the most good to lie. But good for whom?” (23)

==> This is a statement/question to make us think. We often do things for someone, especially a child under our care, and say “it’s for your own good”. It fits what WE BELIEVE to be good for the child, not necessarily what IS good for them. (Though usually, parents rule from experience and not just out of their butts, to put it bluntly.) This applies to all decisions, as we might do something for the good of ourselves, our family, or strangers, depending on how our self image works.

[Carolynn comment] Most judgments on this come from the perspective of being the major character in our own life story… seeing things from the other side is harder than many would think on the surface.

==> Pure extremes are hard to find. No one is going to be all about themselves ALWAYS, nor is there someone who will do nothing for themselves EVER. There is always at least one situation in which a person will act “out of character”; it all depends on our triggers.

==> We have to remember that we are as important as every other ONE. (26) That means that my opinion about going to the movies and seeing a horror flick shouldn’t outweigh seven friends wanting to see an action movie. The balance is one to one, and my opinion is one vote, not seven or eight, or however many it takes to change my mind. Here Carolynn included a quote from a dying Spock in “The Wrath of Khan”: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” Now, there are of course situations in which the needs of the one may indeed outweigh the needs of the many, but overall, democracy usually rules most situations. Majority rules is another way of looking at it.

“All of this is not to say that you must have a balanced self image before you can behave ethically. But it certainly helps.” (31)

==> This is learning to resist knee-jerk reactions, instead hearing all alternatives and choices before making a decision/action. An example would be showing love toward strangers. That telemarketer is a real person, and they probably hate their job just as much as you hate getting a call from them; don’t take it out on that person. Treat them as a PERSON, real.

==> We also brought up not giving until it hurts (mentioned in the chapter on Love). You have to learn when and where to draw the line. This can be hard, especially for someone inclined to help others at any cost.

HONESTY DISCUSSION
==> Bobbie brought up an interesting discussion on lying and honesty. He made the point that there is a time and reason for every person when they will choose to lie. For example, there’s a line you’re willing to cross and lie for self-preservation or the protection of something (a secret, another person, etc.). My personal experience was keeping my marriage from my father. I got married and chose not to tell him the truth, because I couldn’t afford to get kicked out for a couple months (waiting for money). So I lied, and it hurt our relationship immensely at the time. In my mind, though, I felt that our fallout (and my butt on the street) would have been bigger and badder if I’d been honest. Was I right? That depends on personal ethics. The real point is that everyone has a point, a line, at which they willingly lie to protect and preserve.

[Carolynn comment] No one has to agree with anyone else here, but this is one of the things that makes this class so important… getting to know more about how everyone thinks and feels about things like this.

FORGIVENESS DISCUSSION
==> Carolynn brought up an interesting discussion on forgiving others. She said that sometimes we shouldn’t forgive. If a loved one (adult) abuses another loved one (child)… she made a valid point. The abuser may need to forgive him/herself, and that is necessary for moving on in life. But she has no need to forgive the abuser, as her unforgiveness has no direct effect on him.

==> My example was abuse, teen to teen. It’s a different level, you see? I was abused sexually and emotionally; it broke me, it’s the dark side of my heart that my poetry came from. But I did have to forgive my abuser. In order to heal, I had to accept that he broke me like a kid tearing the wings off of a fly; he might not have realized just what he was doing, at least not consciously. Who knows? I’m not him. Bobbie asked a good question: if my abuser stood before me today, this second, what would I do? Honestly, I would just say hi, ask about his family. I’ve moved on, wholly forgiving him and letting the past go. I wouldn’t want to be alone with him, don’t get me wrong. But I feel no hate or fear anymore. Asking Carolynn the same thing, what if the abuser adult were in front of her? She said she’d call the cops, if he survived the dozens of people who’d like to do various painful and violent things to him.

==> Two situations, both similar but unique. Two reactions. Not only do you have personal ethics involved, but legal issues as well. And different personalities or Selves involved; I was a naive and broken teen, isolated and alone. I can guarantee that Carolynn wasn’t in that same state of being, with the same experiences under her belt, at the time of her example. So we can see that everyone is different, and personal ethics DO vary. Greatly.

[Carolynn comment] What are YOUR thoughts on forgiveness? Do you think it is necessary for you to forgive other people? When? Why? Are there any exceptions to this? If so, what are they? If not, why not?

ROAD RAGE DISCUSSION
==> We had some interesting discussion on road rage. Some of us are ragers, the kind of people who will ride on the bumper of someone who cuts us off. Others are the opposite, annoyed by getting cut of but non-hornblowers. I find road rage annoying, mostly because the driver who started it gets to turn at the light and pull away from hearing it (JD in this case), which I’m stuck in the car with a raging twit. UGH!

LOVE

We had some lively discussion, and not all of it was solely about Love. Like all ethics, Love is something that “takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master”. Parents making medical choices was an example of the beginning discussion. We debated whether choosing to accept or deny a treatment for your child is a personal ethic or something abusive, etc. An example would be a child with cancer. There’s a procedure that *might* help them, but it goes against their parents’ religion. So do the parents have a right to deny the procedure? On one hand, they might be guaranteeing their child will die. But on the other, they may feel that life on this earth is transient and the eternal soul (saved by avoiding the procedure) is far more important. A simpler example is spanking. Is spanking wrong? Is it abuse? Ask a thousand people, get a thousand answers. It’s a personal ethic.

“If you love the Gods, you need to love all people, because you need to keep in mind that all people are aspects of the Gods, yourself included.”

Introducing the actual topic was this lovely quote. It’s easy to understand, but hard to apply. It essentially says that you must value both the wonderful person you’re with and the sociopath on death row as aspects of deity. Capital punishment becomes a question here, but I won’t begin to debate that ethical conundrum. (I will note that I’m against it ethically, but I understand that prisons are overcrowded and it costs everyone money through taxes just to keep prisoners housed and fed. There’s no easy solution, unfortunately.)

“Love is a verb.” (45)

It’s not passive, but an active process of finding a way to love everyone.

“Never, never assume that something will be good for someone else because it would be good for you.” (49)

A simple example would be haircuts. Just because you know that a short, pixie style looks good on you does NOT mean you should try to make everyone else get the style. People are individuals, with unique tastes and ideas. The same goes for a hair stylist; sometimes they have to style a person’s hair as requested, not in a way that they think will be flattering. But it’s the cuttee’s decision, not the cutter.

“Love is the decision to give all that you can honestly give without begrudging it, whenever you are asked.” (49)

Notice it doesn’t say “give until it hurts”. The point is, if it hurts, you WILL begrudge it! Or you will end up harming yourself, which is not fair to you or the person you helped (who now gets to feel guilty for accepting your help). Knowing when you need to say no is important to learn. And if someone doesn’t ask for help, don’t automatically give it to them. People often want to make it on their own; they don’t always want your helping hand.

“It is their path, not yours. It is their life, not yours.” (53)

We learn and grow through our experiences and our mistakes. If you don’t allow a child to try something new, they never learn how to fend for themselves. The same goes with adults; they can’t learn a new skill or test an old one if you won’t let them try it on their own. If they don’t ask for help, don’t assume they’ll want it. It’s one thing to offer; it’s quite another to force it onto them.

“Love is the desire to see people reach their full potential.” (53)

This again applies to allowing someone to learn and grow from their own mistakes. It also means helping when asked, as much as you can without begrudging it. If someone gets a better job after training under you, remember that you’ve helped them to reach some of their potential; avoid bitterness. As Carolynn recently commented on my blog, “all things run in cycles”. So remember that the cycle will come around again (i.e. you may also have a chance to get a better job), and you can always choose to join a different cycle (stagnation is never the answer). Move up or move on.

“You must also leave people free to grow at their own pace, and bloom into their own flower. You can’t make a rose bloom faster by peeling back the petals; you just get a dead rose that will never bloom.” (55)

Remember from previous lessons: no two people are on the same exact path. That said, they aren’t going to become the same flower. You can’t force someone to grow or change; it will only kill off or deny the essential parts of their true being.

“Love is a wish that the other person will find what they want in life, and attain happiness.” (56)

Easy for friends and family, hard for strangers and criminals. Just remember, when we’re trying to show love to everyone as aspects of deity, that we are all on different paths. So even if you can’t stand the path they walk, it is THEIRS to walk, not yours. Accept that, and love them enough anyway to want to see them on their way.

Finally, remember that you are just as important as everyone else. That said, finding someone to start practicing this kind of love on should be easy; try loving yourself first. It can be hard, especially in a society where self-hate is prevalent for superficial reasons (weight, style, etc.). But try to love yourself, and remember that you TOO are an aspect of deity, just as important and LOVABLE as everyone else. And I love you all.

HELP

“Helping someone doesn’t mean taking the control out of their hand and doing it for them.” (64)
“The key (to helping others), as I mentioned in the last chapter, is to offer. And if your offer is refused, to stand aside and let them do it.” (64)

==> This is where, when answering the question about refused offers of help, I said that I shrug it off. Keep in mind that offering may be enough for that person. You’ve let them know that you’re there for them, that you care enough to want to assist. If they don’t want the help, then just try to let it go and be supportive. Think parenting; I’m not a parent, but I hear it’s the same idea.

“You see, my friend, people instinctively like to do things themselves…” (65-66, types of reactions to help, reread them yourself lol)

==> We discussed our types in class. Mine was the kind that grew up with every chance to try my own hand whenever I was ready. So I like to try things, life’s a little challenge. But I also, thanks to my personality, like to do projects and such alone as much as I can; I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and my measure of what’s good enough is always too high. I’m honest about that, and working on it.

“The point is, people have different reactions to offers of help, and want different amounts of it.” (67)
“Now do what they ask you to do.” (67)

==> If they ask you to cut the carrots, don’t go mix the whole salad. What if they didn’t want cucumbers in there because so-and-so is allergic? This comes down to common sense and what you know about the person or situation. If they’d appreciate more help, like making the whole salad, but they just don’t ever really ask for or accept help, then maybe it’s okay to finish off the salad anyway. (Carolynn was a prime example throughout class… if you want to help her, keep pestering her or just do something. Then again, I’m sure some of the rest of us are just the same.)

“An offer of help should be an offer to be a consultant or an employee, not a boss.” (68)
“Don’t make choices and decisions for them. Give them the advantage of your experience, but let them use it or ignore it as they will. It’s their life. They are the ones that will be living with the consequences of their actions.” (69)

==> I’d think this is more complicated in a magical situation. A student is tied to their teacher, so the teacher has to live with their actions’ consequences as well. But for the most part, this is true; you have to let people learn. Sure, we can learn from other people’s mistakes, but sometimes we have to fall on our faces too (or fly… too often we say that people have to learn from their mistakes, but sometimes they discover ways of doing something that we would’ve never thought of… they fly).

“After your help has been accepted, it is extremely important to follow through… finish the tasks you have taken on, or let it be known as soon as possible that you cannot.” (70)

==> Honesty! If you know you can’t do it after all, let the person know! For example, if I offered to bring ribs for Midsummer, but then I realized that moving has sucked up all my paycheck, I have a couple options. If I want to follow through, I can purposely go in the hole in my account; this is more help than I can afford to give, though. If I give Carolynn and the rest of the coven a head’s up, someone else might bring burgers instead. If I keep my mouth shut and don’t bring anything, everyone starves! Oh no!!

“The next important thing to realize about helping someone else is that your help may never be reciprocated; at least not by them. Don’t expect it. Don’t demand it. Don’t keep a score card.” (73-7)

==> This works both ways! I personally have a problem with accepting even small bits of help, because I feel like I owe the person who helped. It’s nothing I was raised to feel, it’s a personality thing. I’m working on not feeling guilty when I get free help from someone, especially when they offered at a time when I was too prideful or scared to ask. It’s hard, but as Carolynn said “what goes around, comes around”. Eventually, that person will also get “free” help, even if it’s not from you. And you’ll have a chance to help someone with no repayment. It’s a cycle, an ebb and flow. Go with it.

“But what do you do when you can afford it (giving help), and the person is practically begging you for it, but you feel, deep down, that it’s time for them to learn to stand on their own two feet? You listen to your instincts. Don’t help if you can’t afford it. Don’t help if they can’t afford it, either.” (75)

==> There are different places where you have to draw the line. Some people grow up with everything done for them, so they can’t do for themselves. Or maybe they lack a skill. JD can’t cook beyond sandwiches and scrambled eggs; he grew up cooked for, and now I cook for him. But for his birthday, he got some “manly” cookbooks with simple instructions. And he’s established, through trial and error, that he CAN manage simple cooking instructions.

“It helps others to allow them to help you.” (78)

==> I added this note. We didn’t really focus on it, but when we got to question 8 nearly everyone said they were most likely to refuse help when they knew they could do it on their own. That’s understandable, and great. But if you have the time, and someone offers to assist, there’s no harm in letting them. It helps them reinforce their skills and knowledge. It makes them feel important and positive about themselves, for helping someone. And sometimes, it helps them to learn something new, whether it’s a new skill entirely or just a new method of getting a particular job done.

==> Just remember, the surest way to learn is to teach. If you’ve ever had to explain your spiritual beliefs or practices, you should have an idea of what that means. Explaining requires you to align your thoughts and really look at how you feel about this and that. And sometimes you’d be amazed at the wisdom that just jumps out of your mouth unbidden.

==> I’m looking forward to the Harm chapter. It’s the toughest ethical matter, in my opinion, because I believe we all swing wildly from NEVER HARM to EVER HARM and then find our happy medium. Translation: When I started practicing, I strongly believed that I shouldn’t try to affect anything but myself and inanimate objects, because anything else would be harm. Then I got so upset that I felt like harming others was just self-defense, like an animal biting someone. Now I’m moderate, though every situation is different and everyone has their own bullshit tolerance level.

HARM

“The dictionary defines Harm as ‘hurt; injure; damage, physical or moral’. I define Harm as interfering with another’s free will; lessening someone’s freedom of choice; causing unnecessary injury; damaging someone, physically, mentally or spiritually; or wantonly destroying something.” (89)

==> Moonfish had a really good point about why taking away someone’s free will is harm. Since Will is the base of magic, when you take away someone’s Will you essentially rob them of their magic.

“Forcing someone to take a certain path, whether by mayhem, manipulation, or magic (is harm).” (90)
“Any time that you count your will more important than the will of another, you are harming them.” (90)

==> The point is, once again, that we are each equal to every one other person. If you put yourself above others, not only do you gain an imbalanced view of Self (see Self chapter for refresher), but you may cause harm, intentionally or not.

“And whenever you harm someone, three times the harm will return to you; whether you meant to harm them or not, whether you knew you harmed them or not, whether you believe in all of this stuff of not.” (90)

==> This works both ways; just keep in mind that you also receive three times all the good you do. It’s a balance, not a rolled up newspaper the gods are waiting to whack you with when you harm someone or do “wrong”.

“There is no difference between what is ethical to do by ‘mundane’ means, and what is ethical to do by magical means.” (92)

Blackmailing someone into doing something for you isn’t right, so why would it be okay to force them into it through magic? Then again, this makes me wonder. If you consider it ethical to mundanely strike back when attacked (emotionally, physically, or what have you), then wouldn’t your ethics say that using magic to accomplish your “eye for an eye” is acceptable (as long as they balanced out, like a 1:1 ratio)?

“You must not pick someone else’s path for them, even out of love. You have no way of knowing what the Gods and the person’s Higher Self have planned for them. Finding out what the Gods and your own Higher Self have planned for YOU is hard enough!” (96)

==> We can cause harm by thinking we know what’s best. I hear this is especially hard for parents.

“We don’t have to follow small laws, and codes… We don’t have rules, because we don’t need them.” (100)

==> We don’t, because we learn how we should and shouldn’t act through ethics and reasoning. We don’t need cut-and-dry, black-and-white measures of what’s good, because we learn to draw our own lines. Carolynn made the point that ethically, if your family is starving you may find it completely acceptable to steal food to feed them. You’re breaking a “small law” to do so, but you aren’t going against good ethics by unharming (i.e. feeding) your starving children.

“But ‘unnecessary’ injury? Does that imply that injury is sometimes necessary? Of course it is. The key is to balance injury against injury, and look at the situation honestly and lovingly.” (101)

==> We all agreed that harm sometimes has to happen. It’s part of the learning process, and of growth. If you never know harm, you’ll never appreciate the positive things in your life. Everything must have its balance.

“You have to balance possible pain against possible pain, harm against harm, injury against injury, and take one (action) that will cause the least.” (104)

==> If you know that John really smells and needs a shower, you can tell him many ways. You can drop hints; you can buy him hygiene stuff and leave it around for him; you can bluntly say “GO SHOWER! YOU STINK!”. By weighing what you know about John’s personality and life, you can decide what method will cause him the least embarrassment (harm). Maybe he’d prefer honest bluntness to hint-dropping.

“Don’t assume that clean is ‘good’, or sleeping late is ‘bad’.” (104)

==> Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Maybe a person who sleeps late does so because they have a night-shift job. Maybe someone who isn’t up to your standard of clean is relaxing after years of OCD cleanliness in their parents’ home. You never know.

“…(it’s necessary to butt in) when you see someone harming another.” (105)

==> We all tend to agree that, if we are capable of helping someone who is in immediate danger, we should butt in. If someone’s drowning, dive in to save them (unless you’re like me and Carolynn and would end up needing saving too).

“Realize that in order to do this (help someone being harmed without asking first), you may very well end up harming the perpetrator or yourself; but some risks are justified. Be willing to take the ‘three times’, and act with decision.” (105)

==> Be willing to accept the consequences of stepping in. If someone’s wielding a knife and mugging a passerby, you may end up getting stabbed or stabbing the mugger in your defense. Be willing to take the consequences and act accordingly. (And be smart. If you’re not capable of helping, immediately get someone who can. You aren’t Superman/woman.)

“When someone is damaged, they suffer permanent harm.” (106)

==> The example was cutting off a leg. It won’t grow back. Scars are left when deep wounds heal; they would be permanent harm, or damage.

“Much more subtle is the tendency to damage others mentally or spiritually.” (106)

==> You don’t know if what you’re carelessly saying or doing will be the last straw (that broke the camel’s back) for the person you say/do it to. For example, I just found out that I’ve had a miscarriage. My brother doesn’t read my blogs or emails; he only messages and reads responses on Myspace when he has news that he can’t share with our parents. So I got an email two days after I found out my sad news, and my brother told me I’ll be an auntie in 7-8 months. I cried for a while; he didn’t realize that he’d caused harm until later, when he talked to my mom and she pointed it out. He felt really bad when he realized that not reading everything I wrote in my message led to his tactlessness, as my mother put it. But see, he caused damage (on top of current damage) by carelessly tossing “good” news at me.

==> For a service worker (anyone in any store), you could be that rude customer that just makes them have enough. They may quit, or have a nervous breakdown (been there too), and you may not have realized that they were so close to losing it. So be kind and THINK before you speak or act. You can prevent a lot of harm and damage that way.

“Do not brood on the past, build on it.” (109)

REGRET – DEBATE
==> We had a debate here, about regretting your past. A large part of the debated issue was semantics. One side defined regret as “wanting to go back and undo the regretted incident, make it never have been”. The other side defined it as “a feeling attached to negative events in one’s past, part of the growing process”.

==> For the first side, where regret is wanting to undo. We would claim that to regret something in our past is to wish to undo any and all good/lessons/growth that came from it. Be it abuse, violence, vices, or what have you, we would say that regretting it is not only brooding on your past, but it is working against what the Gods and your Higher Self may’ve had planned. Maybe the negative thing was necessary for your growth; would you undo it just to avoid it, and leave behind the lessons learned?

==> On the second side, it was pointed out that (by their definition of regret) you can only learn from your negative experiences through the regret attached to them. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it or let it happen again. And carrying that regret throughout your life will help you to remain changed (thus, the lessons and growth attained never fade as long as the regret is still there).

==> We agreed to disagree, because the semantics were our sticking point. By not having the same definition, we simply could not end the debate with a consensus.

“…controlled destruction that is necessary to make something new; destruction to get the component parts of something to create something different. That sort of destruction is often a necessary part of the path to renewal…” (112)

==> The paper to make my books came from some trees that were cut down. The food I eat was grown and harvested (killed), so I could be fed. It’s part of the cycle.

“Occasionally, things must be destroyed because of the harm or potential harm they may cause.” (113)

==> A dead tree was the example. In my personal ethics, killing an extremely poisonous spider like a black widow that I found in my house is ethical. The spider may have bitten someone, be it myself, JD, or our cat. I don’t go out of my way to eradicate spiders, since they serve a purpose, but deadly creatures do not live in my house. And I feel that letting it be relocated outside gives it a chance to turn around and come straight back in. Again, that’s personal. (I do try to relocate less toxic bugs, unless I instinctively smoosh them because they crawl on me. But that’s their mistake!)

“Please, dear friend. Be a creator, not a destroyer. When you create something, even something as simple as a meal, you are a force of life and joy…” (114)

==> Think before you act to avoid unnecessary or wanton destruction. Don’t pick at the bark of a small tree out of boredom, you could kill the tree.

“We cannot have life without death, and light without darkness would be a wearing thing indeed.” (114)

==> Balance. It’s always about balance.

WILL

Will + Imagination = Magic
Will = Focus onto Energy onto Desire

These were random notes I made that come about from our discussions of the below quote and its variations. Think about all the rituals and spells that end with “so mote it be”, “so be it”, or something similar.

“Make it so.” (144)
“If you will something, you focus your desire and make a tool of it so that what you desire will, in fact, come to pass. This is an action. It takes conscious thought, movement of energy, direction. It’s not an emotion, and there is nothing vague or fuzzy about it.” (144)

Will is an action. That’s the important thing to remember.

“Even when we do get angry, though, nothing happens unless we will it to happen. There is a difference between fantasizing [paraphrase] someone trips and pushing them.” (146-147)

Again, will is an action. You can daydream about someone dropping dead all you want; daydreams don’t involve will, but fantasy and wishing. If ever worried, though, Robin does mention that you can always begin and end every angry daydream with “this is just a fantasy and will not happen”.

RIVER ANALOGY (148-149)

We discussed how everyone rows their canoes. Many agreed that they would do different things at different times. Sometimes you want to paddle toward a goal, spending lots of energy. Sometimes you want to float and relax, letting the river take you where it may. I personally went with getting out of the darn boat and swimming in the thick of things. For me, this is a visualization of how I like to immerse myself in life and live in the moment; it can get tough (swimming is tiring), but it’s fun and refreshing!

“If it comes to a fight, then be prepared, and fight to win. (If you don’t mean to win, why are you fighting?)… Fight fair.” (151)

This is a good point. All of us have some really crappy days when we just feel like lashing out, but if we’re fighting over something we don’t even care about, then we’re spending lots of energy and creating some negativity for nothing. It’s not worth it.

“ROBIN’S RULES OF FIGHTING
1. Be rational.
2. Stick to the point.
3. If you aren’t sure what the point is, ask for clarification or definition.
4. Don’t bring up a third party.
5. Don’t make personal remarks.
6. If you realize that you were wrong, admit it. Everyone is wrong sometimes.” (152)

These are wonderful, though sometimes hard to abide by. I’d suggest trying to stick to one personal rule. Mine is not saying anything hurtful/personal. That’s my line I refuse to cross, because I know how much one bad remark during a fight can destroy relationships and trust completely. Maybe your rule is just “I won’t hit them unless they hit me first”. If that’s the best you can honestly commit yourself to at this time, then do it. Something is better than just free-for-all fighting, I’d think.

“Just remember, even when you find that you have to fight, to ground your fight in love, not in fear or hatred. Move purposefully and surely to your goal, knowing that you have chosen it wisely, honestly willing to harm none, being non-judgmental and caring about all those you encounter as the real, important people they are. This is the stuff that Witches are made of.

Go softly and joyfully through the world.

Know where you are going, and why.

Be awake and aware.

Do things because you will to do them, not because you just do them.

Keep your brain with you at all times.

But above all, walk with love and laughter in your heart, and you cannot drift far from the path.” (152-153)

I love the last line. It’s a personal goal of mine. Remember that YOU are in control of your emotions and your reactions to everyone and everything around you. Even in the worst situation, YOU can make yourself calm. It just takes Will.

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