Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Play, New Book, Same Old Ken…

Suppose you and your wife went to another couple’s house for dinner. And suppose the husband suggested you should both kill each other’s wife, switching victims like in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (or Throw Mama From The Train, if you're so inclined). Suppose before you had a chance to say, “NO,” he already pulled out a gun and shot and killed your wife and suppose when he realized his mistake, he tried to raise her from the dead only to raise a zombie, which then had to be put down with multiple shotgun shots. Now, suppose that he invited the devil over to fix all this but you find yourself suspected of the murder.

This is the very twisted premise – or are the twisted premises – of my new play, Murder, Zombies, the Devil… and Stuff, which I finished this week. It is a very dark comedy mixed with a murder mystery mixed with a farce. I can’t wait until people see it; it should be a lot of fun.

And that does it for me and plays for a while. After all, since last autumn, I’ve written five new, full-length plays. From farce (Murielle’s Big Date) to drama (Meaning), from plays about marriage (After You Fall) to plays about family (Sometimes We Find Our Way)… and now dark murder mystery farces, I’ve done it all! Time to work on marketing them! After all, along with my first three plays, that makes eight total, which I figure is enough. (Sorry… couldn’t help it…)

Anyway, the time has come for my next book on philosophy. This is an idea that has been noodling around in my noggin for a while but once I confirmed with one of my professors that it was actually something new, a different direction in ethics, I’ve been just itching to start it. Unlike Climbing Maya, this would actually be my first scholarly writing. (I’m hesitant to use the term “scholarly”, for fear people may think I consider myself a scholar.) Mostly importantly, though, it has the potential to change our understanding of ethics completely.

So, what is it? Well, right now, I’m calling it Dynamic Pluralism. (Yes, I’m putting it right here in my blog to lay claim to the idea.) Simply, ethical systems have historically been individualistic, addressing ethics only in terms of one person: you. But it seems clear to me that ethics always depend on the interactions of multiple individuals, which always change from situation to situation. And there’s the whole book in two sentences – so you can be sure there will be more than that.

What’s most exciting right now, is the book’s opening. I won’t even be able to write it for at least a couple of months. After all, I have a great deal of research that needs to be done, yet. But the opening it crystal clear in my head, just waiting to be written. It came about, quite by accident, as the result of a comment my friend Tim, from Washington, made. He said, “well now the way I see it, it is my morals that allow me to look at myself in the mirror. Where ethics are what the group deems correct at that moment. Yeah?” This got me thinking about the difference between morals and ethics. Shouldn't ethics allow you to look yourself in the mirror? These two terms have, traditionally, always been confused and interchanged because they both address how a person should behave but, to my mind, come from clearly different sources. We talk about morals in terms of religion: morality plays and finding morality in the Bible. Morality comes from the term mores, which are supported by religions and customs, and come with a strict punishment. Ethics come from ethos, which does not carry as strict a code in religion or customs. Ethics have, a I mentioned, been left to the individual. This can get rather confusing but watch what happens…

Morality is taught to us by whom? By ministers, preachers, and pastors. By mothers, fathers, and other family members. They are taught, then, by individuals. Tim observed that “ethics are what the group deems correct at the moment” but when you consider that morality is based on an individual’s interpretation of religion or custom, it too becomes what the group deems correct at the moment, as well. This shows that both ethics and morals are subject to the capricious nature of time and culture and individual whim. What may be a moral sin one day, Thou Shalt Not Kill, may turn into a caution the next, Thou Shalt Not Murder, and it’s all open for individual interpretation.

The deeper I delve, the more I realize an ethical system that comprehends all of this, takes this all into consideration, is necessary for our new century. Thus the name: Dynamic Pluralism, Ethics for a 21st Century World.

Anyway, I gotta do something with all this free time, right? And, I guess that's how you go from Murder to Ethics in two easy steps - ha, ha, ha...

1 comment:

Pere Callahan said...

My point, really a simple one, morals, more specifically my moral allow me to look at myself in the mirror. To be able to self reflect with out flinching.

Ethics are more of a governing body, Ethics committee to establish and maintain integrity in a given field, such as law, medicine. So I see it as the body governing the individual, the group deeming what is correct, example:

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its diagnostic list of mental disorders in 1973, despite substantial protest (see Socarides, 1995). The A.P.A. was strongly motivated by the desire to reduce the effects of social oppression.
It was the ethical thing to do, it was the moral thing to do to try and avert some of the pressure on the gay community (seen as “ease the suffering”), even though homosexuality was/is considered morally wrong by some.

Ethics allow for change where morals are rather strict, set in stone if you will.

I know it is overly simple to state:

An ethical man knows why you should not steal, a moral man won’t steal.

But this is how I have always seen the two, they are very different in my head and one could never confuse the meaning.

I wish you the best of luck with your new endeavor.