Joy in ethics at Cultivate Health

The following is a reflection by Damien Thompson, associate professor of sociology and cultural anthropologist. For more about Cultivate Health and Damien’s role in the project, read the Regis University Alumni Magazine Spring 2015 edition.

When I talk with people about Cultivate Health, I tell them it is a project full of potential. I choose to talk about the project in this way in order to remind others and myself that no great possibility is ever realized without the efforts of real people doing the difficult everyday work of turning a vision into reality.

This doesn’t mean we go about our work without joy; rather, it simply means we go about our work recognizing we can invest and work and what we envision may not be achieved, at least not fully, or our original intentions have been thwarted by forces outside of our control.

In a class today, the students and I discussed the value of belief. The conversation was interesting because we came to a point finally where we questioned the usefulness of believing in an idea if a person is not always acting on that belief. Therefore, the action is most important, not the belief. To me this is where ethics becomes important.

In my role as the director of the Center for Food Justice and Healthy Communities within Cultivate Health, and one of the faculty tasked with developing an academic minor and major, my goal is to create opportunities for neighbors and the university community to engage with food production in the gardens and hopefully with one another. I am constantly reminded of the necessity that I act ethically and joyfully as I work to help make Cultivate Health a reality.

Ethics and work are joined together by the recognition that work, when undertaken joyfully, is not routine. It becomes a creative process peculiar to an individual or to a collection of human beings working with a common intention. Similarly, behaving ethically in the midst of working in this way, ethics can be recognized not as abstract set of beliefs to be applied, but as a manifestation of collective will and understanding that we generate in the process of trying to relate to one another in this world.