So how does wholeness ethics apply to our lives? In some ways the whole notion of consciously thinking about ethics in our daily lives has been pushed aside in our time. We think of ethics as applying to “big” issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and so on. But wholeness ethics, while it certainly applies to such things, is ethics for daily life.
This is because it sees life as relationship. All of us are engaged in four basic relationships at all times — whether we like it or not:
- Relationship with self
- Relationship with others
- Relationship with the transcendent
- Relationship with nature
Ethics is a matter of relating in each of these areas in ways that increase wholeness — which I define as soundness, well being and ongoing realization.
The question of whether we’re relating in ways that increase or decrease wholeness is one that is ever-present. lf we live in a family or any kind of household the question applies. lf we engage in any form of trade or business, it applies. If we are a parent, have any impact on the environment, or interact in any way with animals, it applies. If we express any religious thoughts or impulses in the world or have an opinion on anything, the question, “Am I increasing wholeness?” applies. And where this question applies, wholeness ethics applies.
The other thing that ought to be said is that wholeness ethics isn’t about limiting our freedom or making our lives more burdensome. We sometimes think of ethics and rules as the same thing and if we’re talking about rule-based ethics that’s true. Such ethical systems are, as the name indicates, all about rules. Do this, don’t do that.
Wholeness ethics, however, is a reason-based system. Rather than a list of rules that tell you what to do (or what to think), it’s a set of principles with which we must figure out for ourselves what’s good and not good in any given situation. This is the central difference between rule- and reason-based systems. Rules don’t demand that we think — only that we obey. But if all we have are general principles, we have to think about what they mean and how they apply.
So, wholeness ethics is an ethics for everyday life. Further, it’s an ethics that increases rather than limits freedom because it’s reason-based and gives us the responsibility of doing our own thinking.