The air is filled with the sound of leaf blowers. It is the sound of now. There was no such sound when I was a boy. Then the air was filled with the smell of burning leaves. It was a fantastic smell. I realize why we cannot do it anymore but I still wish there was a law that said one day a year we could burn our leaves. The tang of it filling one’s nostrils was better than any fragrance at Macy’s. Nostalgia urges me to sneak into the backyard and burn just a tiny pile; just enough to once again savor the past. Surely I could make it small enough the local authorities would not catch me. It is then that the still small voice in my head says, “Remember Immanuel Kant.”
His Categorical Imperative is the ultimate moral code. He wrote, “It is a moral law that is unconditional or absolute for all agents, the validity or claim of which does not depend on any ulterior motive or end.” For my students I put it in my simple way of speaking. “It is morally wrong for me to do anything it is not permissible for everyone to do.”
When one ponders it, it becomes but a variation of the Golden Rule. Thus it is that sin can be anything that lessens the quality of my life and other’s lives. I cannot throw a paper cup out my car window. It is not for fear of the $200 fine, but for the fact that our world would look like a pig sty if everyone did so. Morality can at times be complicated but most often it is simple enough for a child to grasp.
Written by Roger Bothwell on November 18, 2015