Let Justice . . . Rain?

But let justice roll down like waters

And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:24

The rain was pelting down yesterday, but graciously let up enough for me to walk along the garden path beside the river to the gym for a swim in the early evening. As I walked through the mist in a half-light, under drippy trees and muddy ways, there and back, I was thinking over what I’d been reading. The elements encouraged me to play with slipping in the words “reign” & “rain” to pair with Justice. I’d been re-reading the medieval teaching tale contained in Gillian Rose’s Love’s WorkIt fit my mood; it animates my questions about justice. It gives no (easy?) answers.

I, along with many, continue to wonder about how to think about the world we are creating to/and (?) live in. Today is World Philosophy Day, and, having read this quote from Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director General,

Faced with the complexity of today’s world, philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility . . . The greater the difficulties encountered, the greater the need for philosophy to make sense of questions of peace and sustainable development.

I offer, for your reflection, Gillian Rose’s tale:

“King Arthur explained his dream of Camelot to Guinevere, his beloved wife. He would end the feuds and warfare between the barons and knights, not by becoming a tyrant or despot, but by becoming a just king, who would maintain the rule of law. He would give straight judgements to foreigners and to his own people, so that they would prosper and enjoy peace, not war. They would have plentiful harvests, not famine or blight or plague, and the women would bear children. In answer to Guinevere’s doubts about the likely stability of this new regime of peace, King Arthur proposed to enlist the participation of the knights. He built a Round Table, emblem of equality, and sent out criers for the best knights to join the debate.

Launcelot, afar in France, heard of this vision of Camelot, and, like other warriors and wise men, he was eager to join the fellowship of the Round Table. Launcelot hoped that the new kingdom would create the perfect realm, whereas King Arthur’s aim was to guarantee a knowable and reliable law, which would serve the people and their customs as they were. Guinevere and the other knights warned Arthur that Launcelot cared more for ideals than for others. However, they were all convinced of Launcelot’s human heart when, in a jousting tournament, he wept as he slew a knight. So Launcelot became a Knight of the Round Table.

Launcelot and Guinevere fall in love. For some time, everyone except the King knows of their illicit passion. When the King finds out about it too, should he continue to pretend not to know what has happened, so as to preserve the vision of Camelot? This would destroy the authority of the Round Table and the law. Should he banish Launcelot and condemn Guinevere to die, according to the law, which they have all sworn impartially to uphold? If he enforces the law, against his desire, he will lose his beloved wife, who has betrayed him, and his beloved friend, Launcelot. The King carries out the law: Launcelot is banished and Guinevere is condemned to death. Launcelot saves Guinevere, who enters a convent, and he wages war against Arthur. King Arthur wins the war, but he loses Guinevere, Launcelot and the vision of Camelot” (121-123)

The choice, to overlook the betrayal or prosecute the crime, is not the issue, Rose declares.

‘For, one way or another, the King must now be sad . . .  Sadness is the condition of the King. For he has to experience his power and his vulnerability, his love and his violence, within and without the law’ (123).

The prophet Amos identifies Justice with water, a flowing that sometimes comes down, and sometimes comes up (I’m thinking of well/springs and human tears); of an element that can be hard and can be soft but one that we cannot live without. Water always looks for a way to move on.

As the rain has done for this day.

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