Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Structural Conundra

The lady I spoke to in two long conversations last night was in a terrible state. Her beloved pet dog has a brain tumour, and she faced the decision of letting him die or having him treated, which, because she'd faffed about for a month, had to be taken now or never. Eventually my advice, in so far as it meant anything from someone who doesn't care much for animals and has an active antipathy to the canine, was to go for the treatment: I thought it would cause her less pain than allowing him to die and forever suffering from guilt.

So many of our moral decisions are structurally the same as this. I was reminded of a couple of weeks ago when I had to decide whether to go for a parish I'd been asked to look at, once I leave Lamford; I didn't want to, but wondered whether I ought to, and couldn't see a clear way forward. The elements are the same: instinct points in one direction, a sense of duty in another, advice is perhaps unanimous but not satisfying, and the one thing that would enable us to decide without any ambiguity or regret - knowing what's going to happen if we take one course of action or the other - is the one thing we have no access to. Those of us who are believers want God to tell us what he would like us to do, but he very seldom does, and in the end we have to risk those indeterminate futures, plump for one thing or the other, and deal with the consequences. Might be right, might be wrong, God help us. Quite literally. It will all be revealed in the end, but until then - we live with it.

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