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The Principle-Centered Paradigm

The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that there are PRINCIPLES that govern human effectiveness - natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unaguably "there" as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.
An idea of the reality - and the impact - of these principles can be captured in another paradigm-shifting experience as told by Frank Koch...
Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
Lookout replied, "Steady, captain" which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: we are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees."
Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees."
The captain said, "Send, I'm a captain, change course 20 degrees."
"I'm seaman second class" came the reply. "You had better change course 20 degrees."
By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send, I'm a battleship. Change course 20 degrees."
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.

The paradigm shift experienced by the captain - and by us as we read this account - puts the situation in a totally different light. We can see a reality that is superceded by his limited perception - a reality that is critical for us to understand in our daily lives as it was for the captain in the fog.
Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed "It's impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law."

While individuals may look at their own lives and interactions in terms of paradigms or maps emerging out of their experience and conditioning, these maps are not the territory. They are a "subjective reality," only an attempt to describe the territory.
The "objective reality", or the territory itself, is composed of "lighthouse" principles that are woven into the fabric of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered. The degree to which our mental maps accurately describe the territory does not alter its existence. The degree to which people in a society recognize and live in harmony with these principles moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegration and destruction.

These principles exist in all human beings, regardless of social conditioning to them, even though they might be submerged or numbed by such conditions or disloyalty. For example the principle of FAIRNESS; little children seem to have an innate sense of the idea of fairness even apart from opposite conditioning experiences. There are vast differences in how fairness is defined and achieved, but there is almost universal awareness of the idea.
Other examples are INTEGRITY and HONESTY. They create the foundation of trust which is essential to cooperation and long-term personal and interpersonal growth.
Another principle is HUMAN DIGNITY and SERVICE. Also QUALITY or EXCELLENCE. The principle of POTENTIAL, the idea that we are embryonic and can grow and develop and release more and more potential, develop more and more talents. Highly related to POTENTIAL is the principle of GROWTH - the process of releasing potential and developing talents, with the accompanying need for principles such as PATIENCE, NURTURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT.

Principles are not PRACTICES. A practice is a specific activity or action. A practice that works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another.
Principles are deep, fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply to individuals, to marriages, to families, to private and public organizations of every kind. When these truths are internalized into habits, they empower people to create a wide variety of practices to deal with different situations.
Principles are not VALUES. A gang of thieves can share values, but they are in violation of the fundamental principles we're talking about. Principles are the territory. Values are maps. When we value correct principles, we have truth - a knowledge of things as they are.
Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They're fundamental. They're essentially unarguable because they are self-evident. Although people may argue about how these principles are defined or manifested or achieved, there seems to be an innate consciousness and awareness that they exist.


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