There is no greatness where there is not simplicity. – Leo Tolstoy
Of course, the Golden Rule immediately sprang to mind as soon as I saw this quote.
Is there any more succinct statement that summarizes the underlying Principle of Mutuality that binds us? And as writers like Tolstoy know, the most impactful way to make a point is to do so as briefly as possible.
We’re often critical of the brevity of social media. Who, goes the argument, can say anything in 140 characters or less?
The Christian version of the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is 49 characters, including spaces.
What you would not have done to you, do not to others. Its 53 characters, including spaces. It is also, said Rabbi Hillel, the “sum of the Torah.”
Seems as though Hillel knew something two thousand years ago that today’s pundits have yet to learn. And he didn’t even have Twitter. Or Facebook. Or the Internet for that matter. He just knew that it made sense to make your point and then to let your audience reflect on it.
Which is why he wasn’t dismissing the sacred text of the Torah when he said “all the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”
The problem that most people have when they study the “commentary” around the Golden Rule, whether in Judaism or any other religion or secular moral code, is that they’re actually looking for ways in which to limit or qualify it. They don’t want the “other” to include everyone and everything. No one, they argue, could follow a rule like that all the time.
Confucius said that the Golden Rule was the one thing that he was unable to follow consistently. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
It does mean, however, that even after a lifetime of study, we’ll still be just beginning to understand its implications.
Why don’t we start with something simple?
Add your name to the Consider the Other Pledge.
We can get to the commentary later.