Ethics for Outlaws
Let’s Welcome Each Other Home
We become outlaws one at a time. It is a lonely and terrifying experience. What we do offends explicit or implicit rules of belonging that regulate the ordinary world. Who we are contradicts the roles. Outlawry is the harshest penalty meted out by the historical legal systems of premodern Europe. An outlaw is declared outside the protection of law, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute or kill them. Under the laws of the Roman Empire, an outlaw lost rights as a citizen and became a “homo sacer” (sacred man). Theirs was a consecrated life, intended for special purpose, set apart and forbidden. This sacred quality of the outlaw archetype is something we can actively explore, invent and co-create.
When we stop knocking on the door of normative belonging, trying to make ourselves small enough to get back in, something new can unfold. As we explore and weave what is sacred with other outlaws, the terrifying individual journeys we make into outlawry can lead to co-created homecomings. Together we can make transformative playspace in the outlaw realm, where we find meaning and healing for our lonely traumas. There can be a truer love-making in this extraordinary world, detached from normative rules, roles and goals. There can be joyful, fruitful learning communities. There is also lots of danger, when highly individuated, traumatized people come together in a realm without rules. How do we take learnings we find in the outlaw world, the courage and capacities we build there, and structural components that effectively incubate the extraordinary, sacred experiences we make and find there, and the dangers we discern there, and apply all this to ethics? What is a counternormative ethics? In the normative realm, ethics is meant to resolve questions of human morality with rules and roles that say who is an outlaw and who gets to belong. What are ethics for outlaws?
A process of courageously finding and following our own deep truths – in contradiction to the laws of the land – can be key to making choices for an ethical life. In normative paradigms for love and belonging, there are laws and norms governing ethical behavior, and there are punishing consequences for those who disobey. Many of us have been hurt or diminished by such rules. The legal-moral system is often used to enforce power and privilege, and internalize oppressions as shame and blame. What are the new tools, practices and processes that emerge from our experiences in the outlaw realm? How can we discern and be accountable to what we actually value? What counternormative ethical practices can we co-create, to support us in living deeply ethical lives in counternormative community?
If our belonging doesn’t come from rules and norms that are outside us, it has to come from within us. We make this journey of listening to our own desire, affinity, longing – We feel the terrifying contradiction we are to the normative world. We dare to hear the music of our soul, to sing it and to dance….
In loving relationship with other outlaws, we might find a new kind of belonging and dignity. As we explore and weave what is sacred with lovers and friends, the terrifying individual journeys we make into outlawry can lead to co-created homecomings. Together we can make transformative playspace in the outlaw realm, where we find meaning and healing for our lonely traumas. There can be a truer love-making in this extraordinary world, detached from normative rules, roles and goals. There can be joyful, fruitful learning communities. There are also real dangers.
We are trained to hide and minimize our ecstasies, and to distrust, regulate, monetize and privatize them. We ascribe them to particular gurus, or substances, or special lovers. We can reclaim ecstasy. It is part of our integrity. It can be accessed by anyone, for free. Ecstasy can resource and support all our intimacies. Ecstatic Practices have been part of every ancient and indigenous human culture. Ecstasy realigns us with the non-equilibrium system of life. How do we practice ecstasy, and then integrate our ecstasies into soulful integrities and resonant intimacies?