Back: The Fourth Commandment
The Ten Commandments are odd in that they seem to present as a cascading set of instructions away from the transcendent, like layers of a mandala walking away from the central point. The first four Commandments present as ones that require the reader to accept that they are a force of infinite creative ability and how to angle oneself that in reality, which ends with that act of creation manifesting the world. It would follow then that the remaining six mirror the first three as ways to act properly in that act of creation in the Fourth Commandment. Three focusing on the metaphysical nature of the self, six focusing on that self acting in the external reality.
So, then we have the first and most important rule to act properly in the world. That rule is, of course, do what your parents tell you to do… wait, that’s the first step? “Honour thy father and thy mother,” even if the first four commandments might have some metaphysical value surely this is where the wheels fall off. Wake up, go to church, get the grades, go to church, buy the house, go to church, have the children, go to church, and then raise them right by doing the same thing over again. Nothing says eternal love of the transcendent like continuous generational trauma. “Remember”, organised religion might say, “if you don’t follow the rule properly its liquid sulphur enemas for eternity so you’d better just shut up and get in line”. With this way of thinking, you must also never threaten to undermine your parent’s belief with any questions like “why would a loving God allow the devils in Hell urchin suppositories?” because that sounds like a whole lot of questions from someone that likes the way their knees bend. That’s the whole point of these religious rules, right? Because without these rules, society would fall apart, families would dissolve, and it would be anarchy the next time eight people sit in a room pretending to enjoy dry turkey. Surely this community inflicted vision of Hell at least has some value in societal stability. That if children don’t disobey their parents then they’ll at least be able to build something of value and continue on the work of the community in safety and security. Surely that is better than the alternative where people fully express themselves and the society devolves into chaos. Perhaps it’s ok to not be your own person in the interests of the system continuing. That system that is causing at least you, and probably many others to feel suffocated, alone, in a boiling sea of suffering. Perhaps then we should assume that the Fifth Commandment is not the apparatus that one would use to build their own personal Hell. We might even consider what Jesus said about people who lead children astray, and their mandatory stone swimming aids, before anyone suggests that those children should go through life living out unending suffering.
To assume that this kind of ‘wilful subjugation’ interpretation of the Fifth Commandment is the correct interpretation would require us to reconcile a collection of incompatible axioms between the individual Fifth Commandment and the Commandments as a whole. To accept the ‘wilful subjugation’ model we must first accept that it places the Fifth Commandment in opposition with the First Commandment. If one is given a request by their parents that is fundamentally at odds with what one believes to be the judgement of God, which should they follow? The ‘wilful subjugation’ model requires the full set of Commandments to be internally inconsistent. Additionally, for the ‘wilful subjugation’ model to be true it would also require the belief that, after your parents are deceased, one of the ten most important rules for living a good life is void. No other Commandment is dependant to be followed based on things that the individual has no control over, beyond the presentation of existence itself. The true meaning of the Fifth Commandment must be one that has a fundamental aim at personal growth and the betterment of the self. Any other interpretation would not be the will of a being that desires reality to be a transcendent expression.
To understand this Commandment, we must necessarily derive the meaning specifically from the Commandment itself. This does have a second part which is not typically recited, ”Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This qualifies that by understanding and following the Fifth Commandment one would be in a better position to live a long and successful life. There are two definitions of honour. One would be to ‘honour’ a contract, the other would be to ‘honour’ an achievement. To get the full meaning of the Commandment, and being realistic, a concession must be made for children living under tyrannical parents, an inverted nod to the ‘wilful subjugation’ model. There may be cases where there are very few options to escape the tyranny of one’s parents, particularly if one is living in their house. In this case, it would be most valuable to honour them like a contract that has soured. A necessary set of concessions and labours which must be undertaken because breaking the contract would result in greater restrictions being created, which would make one’s situation worse. However like a contract, one can look for avenues and clauses to escape the contract as early and as valuably as possible. So children stuck in these positions would have energy better spent building support networks and building a financial position to escape the tyranny of their parents rather than using that energy to assault the tyranny. Particularly in earlier times, where parents had greater rights over the lives of their children, this contractual consideration of the Fifth Commandment isn’t a fair and just intervention of some higher being but is a realistic rule that accepts that even a terrible situation can be made significantly worse by acting poorly. Of course, this interpretation is corrupted to suggest that the fact that a parent can undermine their child is the justification that they should be able to demand full obedience. However, if a parent were to truly believe this they would betray their hand. Acting out this belief presents that the parent’s belief is mercenary, that their belief is not a personal structure for growth, but is contingent on the apparatus of oppression. In doing so they might accept a range of delusions, just to see if they can force their child to speak those same delusions. In cases like this the faith that the child must have is that, as long as they can complete their childhood and education and act morally, even under a tyrannical structure, they too will be able to create value and live a meaningful life. They must honour the contract with their parents, but that’s not the same as believing they are right or even moral.
Given the natural separation from the parents that has occurred over the last few generations, with families up to great-grandparents not all sharing the same house, the second reading of the commandment, ‘honouring achievement’ is the significantly more valuable avenue for understanding the Fifth Commandment. If one is to honour a specific achievement, like the creation of a beautiful painting, the correct method of doing so is not to just sit there, unthinking, and say “wow! so bold, clearly the work of a genius, this is groundbreaking, [buzzword], and [buzzword]”. This would only be a performative act where one presents as cultured to the audience that they would like to appear cultured to. To truly honour something, we must have an honest relationship with that which we are honouring, that is to say, a relationship with the flaws and limitations of the entity while still holding that entity as a mechanism for insight and growth. If one were to honour a marriage then they would take a position that, despite all of its flaws and the way our personalities do not work well together, this relationship and its continuation within the ruleset that we have given each other, is going to result in a better world for everyone. Does it do a famous character more honour to say that they were above contempt or is it more honourable to be a character who, despite being contemptible and flawed, was able to rise above their weakness to do great works? If one takes Winston Churchill, is it better to say he rallied the British people against the terror of the Nazi menace and stood alone on the European coast refusing to bow to a mad man, or is it more honourable to say that even though he suffered from depression his entire life, had a severe drinking problem, was an imperialist, architect for many major catastrophises that resulted in numerous deaths, but despite this litany of failure for his entire life, he was able to rally the British people against the terror of the Nazi menace as they stood alone on the European coast refusing to bow to a mad man. The irony is, that to accept that some people are worth honouring, despite their flaws, you must also accept that because that despite your flaws, you too have the capacity for greatness.
With this model of honouring one’s parents we are presented with a trial of empathy which by overcoming it, one can act better in the world. Before engaging with this trial, some questions need to be asked. How does one have a personality? Where does it come from? Personality could be considered as a blank slate that can be moulded to produce any kind of person from the child. This would require us to see the entire animal kingdom, and the fact the animals act similar to the others of their species, acting out a personality encoded by their DNA. From this, we must assume that at some point Humankind debased itself from its animal roots and had full control over its expression. This is a childish idea that might as well be ‘my ball is better than yours because it is mine’. A higher intelligence being would probably note that all of human achievement was just as natural as the fact the birds produce nests every year. in the discussion of personality, there is a question regarding nature vs nurture, which is a relevant delineation but begs the question, by which force did nurture separate from nature? If not just by a natural mutation that allowed mankind to just reference the actions of others to adapt their personal model for success. The presentation of the idea that individual personalities are derived from DNA, and the tangential cascading effects of DNA, which are all natural outcomes of the laws of the universe, is ironically stubbornly rejected by the society at large, only because we each believe our personality to be special in a transcendent way, rather than the result of some iterating and knowable system.
By accepting this we can commit to that trial of empathy which will allow us to act more correctly in the world. We are genetically an amalgamation of our parents, 50% of our DNA comes from our mother 50% of our DNA comes from our father. To the extent that nurture is a significant component, it is still a cultural presentation that is controlled by one’s parents. In effect, your parents try to get you to ‘act right’ which really means ‘act in the way I think you should act.’ Therefore we must accept that both the wiring of our brain is the same as our parents, and the software that it is running has been given to us by our parents. In effect, the total expressed behaviour pattern that you are engaging the world with is closest to that expression of your parents, over any other individual. So honour your parents because you are some combination of them, and they are the greatest case study for your success. Your pathology will be some kind of amalgamation of their pathology. By honestly examining the way that your parents are moving through life, you are given the tools to avoid using the same ineffective behaviour patterns that your parents use. Being aware of the ways your pathology might manifest, and you will have the best chance to nip it in the bud before acting too poorly to another soul. This will allow you to be more successful and have a longer life for the obvious fact that more people will like you.
These ideas are already the ways that we structure support in our society. Has anyone in your family suffered a heart attack? Do you have a family history of diabetes? Does your family have significant alcohol consumption? However, we struggle to continue past these health-based levels to those of behavioural issues despite the fact there are genealogical patterns. Does your family have a history of abusive fathers or mothers? Does your family have a history of unplanned pregnancy? What is your family’s history with violent crime? Does your family have a history of parental abandonment? This is not an investigation that can be undertaken by an external party, as the question in its own right is similar to blaming individuals for faults that have not committed, which is not conducive to a common law society. The individual must go on this journey alone, and try and understand the best they can the failures of their parents. This must be done so when they are tested in the same way, that generational poltergeist does not find a new home.
Forwards: The Sixth Commandment