The Seven Sages of Ancient Greece distributed suggestions for personal behavior on stone about the year 570 BC. These were not laws of the land with punishments like Hammurabi’s laws written in stone, nor Commandments with eternal rewards and punishments like Moses’ statements in stone. They were more like suggestions and while trying to make these ideas more readable and palatable to the modern English reader I have softened them into tips. These tips are stated as generalized actions that the reader may ponder, and if found reasonable for their life situation, practiced with mental exercises. There may be no Universal good actions because it seems to be possible to conjure up situations where a seemingly very good act has bad effects. Morality is based on situations and those may be viewed in many different ways. Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative, “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law,” is famous and sounds great, but when you try to apply the idea it becomes too nebulous to be useful. In the Old Stone Church here in Bend, Oregon, the statement “God is Love” has hung over my head in stained glass for the last six years. It sounds nice and the sentiment is spiritual, but ask anyone what the terms God or Love mean and both of those terms drift off into a confusion of nebulous, fuzzy vapors. I can appreciate the intent of the statement but those terms and their pleasantly warm feelings, without a positive application to other people’s lives, go into the grave with those people’s bodies.
The Sage tips are action-oriented, and even the ones which are totally mental are intended to put the person thinking them into a positive-action frame of mind. This idea carried to the maximum yields Sage tip #105, Protect your friend’s life as your own life. I have also been stating that idea in a more mundane way for daily use because hopefully the situations that are dangerous to your friends’ lives are rare. The statement for daily life is “Treat others better than you treat yourself.” That action is more compatible with tip #75, Do lots of tiny good deeds and a few big ones.