I continue to reflect on what I am learning about the nature of ethics as I try and become a better bagpiper. Yes, I think in some strange ways.
At a recent lesson I highlighted a set of notes, which in this particular sequence appear often in tunes, but which to my ear just did not seem right when I am playing them. It transpires that there is one small note, a ‘d’ grace note, that I am taking too long to play. No real problem – just a small note given too much emphasis. But unfortunately not so simple. For because I take too long to play it I am either playing it too late – or normally I am starting it too early. No problem, it is just a small note being given too much emphasis. But unfortunately not so simple. Because it is getting too much emphasis all the other notes have to be shifted fractionally – but shifted, to allow me to accommodate this note in the tune. This means that it sounds like the tune but not quite. As suggested – “I have developed a system of playing that accommodates a misplayed note”. The system is logical and coherent in itself – but it is not quite the tune as found in the music or played to its best.
People can develop systems of ethics. Ways of thinking about ethical decisions that appear logical and internally consistent, difficult to fault according to their own internal logic, yet do not quite appear to be the tune as we find it played out not least in the life and person of Jesus.
James Wm. McClendon Jr famously defined theology as:
‘the discovery, understanding, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is’.
That phrase that interest me here is: ‘including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another’. Perhaps not everything in our systems need to be given the same weight, perhaps not all beliefs are of equal value or deserve to be given such, perhaps good things are misplaced and condensed by an over emphasis of misplaced importance. Oh what we say and may have an internal logical consistency and can even claim to be the tune, Christian, but when compared to the script, the text, for me Stassen’s thick understanding of Jesus as the model for discipleship, it seems not quite right.
Then perhaps we need the sort of critical revision that McClendon speaks about of how things relate to one another as I need to learn to play that note faster in order to allow the tune to reach its full musicality.