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I'm thinking about orthopraxy. The quick-and-easy definition from Wikipedia says: "a religion that places emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace."

I want to expand that out a bit, and am pondering a working definition along the lines of: the actions one takes -- or refrains from -- in order to express one's fundamental beliefs and values and/or identity that makes you a good [fill in the blank] because you do it. There is merit attached to doing a particular thing that transcends any obvious pragmatic value or obvious benefit that a non-initiate would be able to discern.

It's not just those who are religious who engage in orthopraxy. Voting is a common orthopraxy for "good" citizens. A common sentiment is "I don't care how you vote, just vote" -- even when most of us would objectively prefer for our politcal opponents to abstain.

There are things we do in our relationships (romantic, parental, friends) that have meaning and significance beyond how we feel in a given moment, or things we do because we think "that's how a good [fill in the role] does things." For example: several years ago I spent three hours at an elementary school talent show to watch Wolfling play a minor role in a silly skit at the end of the evening. The objective/pragmatic benefit was that it made my daughter happy to have me there. Beyond that, I was thinking about the Good Mom karma I felt I should be accruing.

So I'm curious about what my friends do in order to gain merit or be "a good [whatever]" or express their love or reverence.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
I read this last night and have been thinking about it since. It's a very intriguing set of questions. I can relate to the first part of your definition, but the bolded portion isn't something I usually relate to. "Being a good X" speaks to me of duty, and I very rarely move from a sense of duty. There are other descriptions I'd give to the ways I invest in relationships that transcend my feelings in the moment, or that have benefits that wouldn't be apparent to just anyone at first.

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Queen of Swords

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