Life as a human elevated above animals can be viewed as a cycle of conscious choices and consequences, judged using a system of values we hold on to. The ideal life would then be when we always make the right choices, leading to the best results we can see. But that requires perfect knowledge of our options, which we don’t have. The next best thing is then to make the best choice based on what we know at the moment, and to learn as much as we can from its consequences to guide us in the future should a similar situation arises again.
There are times when the choices are hard to make, when each option appears just as good, or just as bad as others. It helps then to have a set of guiding principles to help us decide between these tough choices.
I would thus like to humbly propose a hirearchy of values, against which a given option shall be judged against. Those that fulfills a higher principle should be preferred to those that don’t, even if the latter satisfies a lower priority value, when only one must be chosen.
The hirearchy is as follows:
- First priority is for sustainable human life.
- Second priority is for coherence of mind with the world.
- Third priority is for balance, justice, and appropriateness.
- And fourth is for happiness.
Life is first and foremost, for without life every other values are moot. Life needs to be sustainable, not just for the individual, but for the society at large, since we humans ultimately depend on each other to survive. It follows then that the environment need also be sustainable, for without so life cannot thrive.
A coherent mind is also highly important, because without it, we will not be able to make use of the rest of our values. And yet we may sacrifice it if direly needed to continue life, as the mind may arise again in future when life flourishes again to nourish it.
Coherence need to be both internal within the mind, as well as external with the world. We must be able to justify our beliefs and our principles, so that we can make decisions efficiently without being plagued by doubt and guilt. And yet we must not delude ourselves and go against the truths of the world, for that endangers the rest of our values as well.
Once life is assured and the mind is attuned to oneself and the world, then we are well equipped to take appropriate actions in the world. We are to act justly, to right wrongs, to restore balance, within the limits of our understanding and capacity.
And lastly, when things are in good balance, then we have the luxury to seek happiness, again within the constraints of appropriateness, sanity and life. But when we only care for our own happiness at the detriment of others, or for perpetuating short term pleasure in lieu of long term sustainability, then problems would eventually arise.
It is my hope then that when we are stuck with a tough decision to make, to remember these principles, and to weigh them well against each other. And when no options come to mind, there is always the everpresent default option to wait first before deciding, so that we can seek more understanding of the issue, by reaching deeper inwards into our psyche, or outwards with our senses, or towards others for help with our decision.