Perhaps consequences have not much been the lead sled dog in our framing of reality because arguments about freedom or determinism or morality seem so much more spectacular, if a bit ambiguous. For instance we can be inundated with dictums such as, be good go to heaven, be bad go to hell. Kill for sport bad, kill for God good. Capitalism good, socialism bad. Regulation good or bad (depending on an individual’s frame of reference), free markets good or bad (same issues with frame of reference). War and death bad, but don’t fight for our rights even more bad. Love good, sex bad—well, unless it’s for love and/or children. In fact, children good, barren bad. Alcohol bad, mediating good. This list could go on forever.
I tend to think sticking good/bad labels on consequences is not as valuable as efforts to be as aware of the probable consequences as we can. I’m not sure what exactly the saying is, but it goes something like “it’ll all work out are the supposed consequences of a fool.” But that’s just more labels.
Look, someone drinks themselves to death means they drank themselves to death. That itself is a consequence. So are the effects on those who witness such a death. Is it good or bad? I dunno. What are the consequences of such labels? Do we create dichotomies and call them discovered and ourselves brilliant? Instead of the good/bad labels, how about if we create (okay—discover if you like) a set of variables that lead to different consequences and get off our soapbox about right and wrong. I admit a lot of folks would have major delirium tremens during the labeling withdrawal period, but our energies might actually be freed up to deal with consequences instead of that Popeil Labeling Gun many of us wield like a sword (maybe it’s another company that makes the labeling gun).
Okay, labeling is easier and we can get all self-righteous and indignant and call for changes like we’ve got the mouth of God next to our blessed ear. Figuring out consequences can be like a bad job—tedium followed by more tedium followed by a longing to return to The Time of Labeling. Certainly there seem to be diminishing returns in the consequences’ business whereas the labeling business always seems to bring in cash in one way or the other.
As you might surmise by now, I like to ask about the consequences. But here’s a bit of a twist, though not a new twist: There might be a lot of peace for both individuals as well as communities if we know as best we can the consequences of our behaviors and thoughts as well as if we can accept them. There you go, it’s not just about knowing the consequences, it’s about accepting them. If one wants to drink themselves to death and they’re good with it and that behavior doesn’t kill or maim others, what’s the problem? If one wants to stay at home and hide out and that behavior doesn’t kill or maim others, what’s the problem? Insert most any scenario with the qualifier. We don’t need to call those kinds of things good or bad, even if we’re trying to get promoted or elected. There would still be a lot of surprises, including disappointment and gratitude. Can you imagine human organizations so constructed? Can you imagine individual relationships? Yep, understanding consequences may be more important than arguments about what is the best political, religious, economic, educational, etc. system. But the acceptance of those consequences is key to our ability to effectively change—if we have the time. If not, at least we can meet our consequences, including our death, with some aplomb.