Of all the world’s great “isms,” America may be best known for its no-nonsense spirit of Utilitarianism. Shaped by the English thinker John Stuart Mill, it became a hot-selling idea here in the 19th C, because it preached what Americans love to hear most. The philosophy of happiness.
A few generations later, everyone from Jack Kerouac to Bob Dylan to the Beatles were chanting about “letting the road take you wherever,” “this land is your land,” and “if it feels right how can it be wrong.”
Ahhh, so you recognize some of that stuff from back in your long-haired college days. But now that you’re a little older, and who knows maybe even a little wiser, you may find yourself thinking like a Utilitarian as you sort out those values by which you intend to live the rest of your life. Lets put this in perspective. Values maybe even more important than the New York Times, the Oscars, the Tonys, political parties, gun rights or gay rights.
I’m talking the essentials here! For instance those conversations which occasionally dare to touch upon that not-for-prime-time topic: God and whether he/she/it still has any skin in today’s game?
Today in the secular West it’s fashionable to categorize the old fella into one of three roles: essential, optional, no longer on the big board. Defining and debating God is a task for mightier pens than this. Indeed, pens have been furiously scratching out answers for centuries. But for the sake of this modest commentary, lets simply cut to the all-American Utilitarian chase.
When life gets serious — say on those good days when you’re watching your only granddaughter address her classmates or those not so good days when you’re watching the one you love in a hospital bed — what does your all-American Utilitarian heart tell you is the happiest, safest way to watch? With or without the strong, paternalistic hand of that something/someone you’ve heard about since childhood?
I’m not talking religiously…I’m not talking liturgically…I’m just talking utilitarianly. Take all the time you need.
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