By David Hegg
Twenty-five years ago I suffered a freakish breakdown of my knees. As I pushed off to hit an overhead in a tennis match, my left patella fractured and the patella tendon ruptured. A millisecond later the same pair of injuries happened to my right knee. After two surgeries on each knee, my parts were wired back together and healing began.
For several weeks I was confined to a wheelchair with both legs immobilized. Then I progressed to braces that allowed for additional extension week by week. Finally I graduated to hard rubber braces for each knee that allowed me to start trying to walk. When those braces came off, I found that my proprioception was out of whack, and I literally had to learn to walk again.
During the ensuing weeks of physical therapy I relearned how to walk and began rebuilding the muscles in my legs that had atrophied considerably. After almost a year of therapy and exercise I was able to resume life although my contract with the Lakers was no longer viable (kidding).
During that period I learned many valuable lessons. One had to do with the calves on both of my legs. Before the injury I had very large calves. After the braces came off my legs looked like pencil shafts. It was apparent that the injury to one part of my body had devastating effects on other parts. And as I started trying to walk again, I found that the weakness in my knees put undue pressure on my hips and back, causing them to grow increasingly painful.
And the cramping of the back muscles caused my shoulders and neck to tense and … well you get the idea. Turns out the body is not just a group of parts. It is a consistent whole that acts holistically. When one part is out of joint the whole system suffers.
The same is true in most other systems, from assembly lines to football teams. For systems to achieve their purposes the various parts must do their job. In philosophy this is called coherence. A system is said to cohere when its parts function in a logical consistency.
Ethical systems are no different. Our personal value systems are coherent to the extent that they remain viable in all situations and can explain the reality of our world.
But increasingly the personal ethical systems represented in our society are crumbling under the weight of pragmatism and self-ism.
Sadly, the decay caused by these two ideologies is bringing undue pressure and pain on many other segments of society.
Unethical practices in business are hurting the financial markets. Unethical behavior in medicine is hurting the insurance industry, and the consumer.
Unethical actions and decisions by clergy and politicians are causing pain to individuals and families in increasing numbers.
It is not an overstatement to say that our societal ethic is being eroded … one selfish, greedy act at a time.
It won’t do to stand by and watch as the basic standards of honesty, morality, tolerance, respect for authority, and love of neighbor are eroded slowly by those seeking to rewrite the basic storyline of American society.
The questions we need to be asking aren’t primarily financial; they are ethical.
Good societies are made up of good people, and where goodness wanes, society devolves into a painful collection of disparate groups rather than a cohesive whole.
Our motto – “E pluribus unum” – calls us away from self-ism to a collective ethic that asks the best of us all.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.