After several weeks of online research and fifteen-something books later, not to mention the actual writing that took me away from my normal activities for a significant period of time, like biking or playing with my grandkids, or going out with my wife, I finally submitted my latest book to my publisher. The title is Ethics – Knowing Right from Wrong.
At first, I was hesitant to write the book. Ethics is such a complicated topic to discuss because it is replete with concepts that philosophers throughout the ages could not even agree among themselves.
And I am not the most ethical person in the world. My credibility is at stake. But the more I thought about the topic, the more I was convinced that writing about ethics would teach me about myself. And if it would teach me about myself, maybe it would also teach others.
If it can teach, ethics must be about life. It teaches how people should live and make decisions. Think of abortion and mercy killing. They are emotional issues that can drain our way of thinking. But there’s another way of tackling these issues. That’s where ethics comes in – it can offer us ethical principles or rules that can serve as guidelines or a framework to help us find our way through difficult issues.
Was it hard writing about the book? Yes, it was hard. For one, there is a huge amount of materials out there, and time was not on my side. I had a deadline to meet. Also, there are so many ethical concepts that appear to contradict each other, or at the most, confusing, and I found the task of synthesizing contradicting viewpoints really hard.
Another hurdle bugging me was the possibility that well-intended individuals – and not just the cynics – might criticize my work, although I have long convinced myself that unfounded criticisms are the least of my concerns – something that I learned from reading the Little Red Book of Mao Zedong. I have long come to terms that I cannot please everyone in life.
As renowned American author Stephen King once wrote. “If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.”
I was also aware that marketing the book in the Metropolitan Manila area, where big publishers have already established their niche, is a Sisyphean task. Books with similar titles are probably already in the market. So, there was an element of self-doubt if the book would sell.
Despite these apprehensions or challenges, I went ahead in writing the book. I care about the topic so much that I wanted to dig deeply into it, hoping that once the book is completed, it will have a positive influence on its readers and make a difference in their lives.
I still vividly remember a professor in one of my philosophy classes in college who religiously told us that at one point in our lives we have to do something hard – and challenging, if I may add – because it would shape our character. Things that are hard to do are always worth doing, he reminded us.
What is more difficult or harder than writing about a topic that deals with the issues of good and bad, right and wrong?
Without stating the obvious, ethical misconduct is seen everyday on TV and in the print media: unbridled cheating in business transactions, politicians engaged in corruption, reporters selling fake news, you name it, the variety of transgressions seems interminable in our society today.
It is my hope that the book will serve its purpose in a manner that His Holiness the Dalai Lama once wrote: “Ethics is not simply a matter of knowing. More important, it is about doing. For this reason, even the most sophisticated ethical understanding, if it is not applied in daily life, is somewhat pointless. Living ethically requires not only the conscious adoption of an ethical outlook but also a commitment to developing and applying inner values in our lives.”