“All this talk about values!” I recall a philosophy professor bemoan during a particularly passionate (complexed?) lecture. He wanted philosophical discourse to be focused elsewhere for sure, primarily on his sense of ideas, which by the way, he valued more.
For him, values indicated that the psychological was seeping into his treasured philosophical domain, and he wanted no part of it. Since those formative years in my journey, my path has veered in a decidedly psychological direction. The lived challenge of moral experience consistently outweighs any consideration for ethical systems of understanding. Although it would likely lead to the dismay of my dear professor, I’ve become somewhat of a champion for values.
The difficulty, and perhaps the insight at the root of my professors disdain, is that values held aloft in the abstract like a flag, and not embodied in our lives, can lead to hypocrisy. When we do this, I would argue, we in fact value hypocrisy, but just not in a conscious manner.
The value at the core of my life operates both extrinsically and intrinsically, getting embodied in a variety of private rituals that are offerings of and to soul. The alchemists called it their opus. I prefer practice. Without practice, all the other values simply drift off. There is no traction.
The difference, for instance, between an active practice of acceptance and a passive “whatever” is night and day. Practice can teach us to turn affliction on its head. It guides us to let go of those harried attempts to control what will never yield. “Letting go” need not be a cliché. Acceptance, properly integrated, forms the raw material of authentic offerings to all the unseen forces that shape our lives, stretched as we are taught as the shaman’s drum, between heaven and hell.