Sometimes I wonder at the things people do and why. What we do and why comes down to our idea of ourselves – who we think we are. And who we think we are depends on our relationships with others. Our relationships give us each a position in the world. We relate to others, we react to what others do or say. Nothing is more upsetting to our wellbeing than to have a relationship that has failed.
Imagine, if you can, an extreme hypothetical where you were placed on a desert island immediately after birth. Forget how you were fed or nurtured, it is as I said, an extreme hypothetical. Imagine now that you are about fourteen years old, you would not know if you were tall or short, fat or thin, dark skinned or fair, pretty or plain, in fact you would not even know if you were male or female! Having never seen another person, in this hypothetical, you will have had no one to relate to; nothing to compare yourself to.
What we normally do is to compare ourselves to others, not like what we see and then think of ourselves as different, better, from a higher class, more beautiful, more intelligent or whatever. That is when problems arise. Fights begin and wars start because of this kind of thinking.
If you enter into any relationship thinking like this, or develop this kind of thinking later in any relationship (at work, with a friend, or romantic etc) there will be major problems. This is where ethics and life meet head on. Ethics is all about treating people the way you would like to be treated. There is no other viable option. We need relationships, so it is not a good idea to screw them up! To do so causes stress, and is generally unhelpful.
The poets often get it right. John Donne, (1572 – 1631), penned the famous lines (actually from one of his sermons, not his poems):
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”