We did not ask to be here. Our existence is a brute fact, over which we had no control and about which no deciding voice. We were literally dragged kicking and screaming into this world. Those who brought us here without our consent, therefore, owe us a debt of service to raise us, clothe us, feed us, protect us, educate us, love and nurture us, and help us to become our better selves. Such is the moral contract that our parents made when they made us.
But not only do our parents owe us that debt of service, society in general owes us that same debt as the logical and necessary extension of our immediate family. Society exists because of, and in support of, all of us together. That’s what societies are: collections of individuals and families coming together in mutual support. Society relies on our collective interest and action; therefore it owes us its support, its service.
Seek to improve that which surrounds me, whether flora, fauna, or humana. Be in service to life, to existence. Make it better for everyone possible.
Society is, by definition, collaborative, collective, cooperative, and utterly symbiotic in nature. None of us exists alone, in a vacuum. We all exist in the context of society. Our actions within society—moral, immoral, or indifferent—always occur in relation to one another in a social dynamic. Yet even isolated away from all other humans, we still remain moral creatures charged with responsibility, duty, and imperative action. Our behaviors still retain their meaning in relation to our ecological context. One human alone in the wilderness—inconsequential to any other person—remains moral in her actions through her impact upon nature. A single person, acting with reckless abandon, damaging the living ecosystem around her, has committed immoral acts against nature. While the same person alone, acting in support of her natural surroundings, remains moral in her isolated actions, even in human solitude.
The key factor of morality is that it is always a relational enterprise between at least one person and a greater living context beyond the immediate boundaries of that individual. But while morality may be relative in any given context, it is absolute in its imperative nature: Seek to improve that which surrounds me, whether flora, fauna, or humana. Be in service to life, to existence. Make it better for everyone possible.
We begin life as utterly selfish children, having everything provided for us, given to us, created for us, and without any expectation that we return the favor (save for adorable smiles, darling giggles, and impish grins). As we grow and develop, however, we begin to recognize our shared burden; and we begin to share more and more of our own efforts in benefit of others through our offerings of service.
Through our service, we finally realize our place in a greater social context, as well as our role in helping nurture, shape, and support that society in which we all share.
As our own abilities to serve mature, we begin to realize the debt of service we owe to our family members. We take on chores around the house. We learn to lend a hand. We clean our own rooms; clean the house; take care of the dog or cat; wash the dishes; take out the trash. Eventually, we expand those mundane expressions of moral duty as we begin to repay society in general our own debt of service. We get a summer job. We help our friends complete family projects. We volunteer for service at our church or community organization. We become engaged in society at large beyond the confines of our own immediate lives. At some point, the balance point tips. No longer helpless, selfish children expecting only to be served, we become fully active debtors tasked to serve the society that bore and bred us, to serve one another. And the cycle turns….
The expectation of our service becomes a given; and we instinctively take up that burden. Our duty to become of service to others, not simply to focus upon our own needs and desires, expands our influence as it expands our world. Our personal role has become a social role. No longer are we seeking only to improve ourselves, but now to improve each other and our greater environment. Our shared good becomes our personal good, as we mature and develop our abilities to serve. Through our service, we finally realize our place in a greater social context, as well as our role in helping nurture, shape, and support that society in which we all share.
It is our service that defines us in relation to others. It is our own individual service paid in concert with the service of others that builds a society in service to us all.
~Brian Scott Archibald
Excerpts from In Our Service: Moral Action in an Ends-based Society