This Is Not The Law

Ore : 5:02 PM

I wish to learn the language a shadow speaks to describe a fire.

And the way I describe is not the Way. And the law I espouse is not the Law; it is merely a text description of the finger a monk points at the moon.

I've lied, cheated, stolen. I drink and smoke and swear. I've ingested a veritable pharmacopeia in the course of my piddling, rather unproductive life. I've been in plenty of fights and had plenty of unsafe sex. Of the approximately six-and-a-half billion people currently occupying our globe, I'm the 5,981,701,667th most qualified person to attempt writing this.

I am 28, and as such, deeply unwise in virtually everything. I grope about in the dark, and can only hope that in my groping I touch something, anything, and that that which I touch will not immediately kill me. At this age, the only way I can begin to talk about the Law is in the most dangerous way possible: by first naming what and where I am sure it is not.

It cannot be in the dusty, sticky, quotidian end result of human approximations of the Law -- not in interrogations "gone wrong," not in jackboots that claim to stomp in the name of freedom; it's not with machete-wielding weasels in the refugee henhouse, or with sick and hostile checkpoint guards. I severely doubt it's in William Bennett's folded poker hand. And I dare not mistake it for the purported letter of the Law, as it is batted about like a shuttlecock over tipsy-making cocktails at the Bohemian Grove and among the grim, self-righteous faces that fill the Heritage Foundation's warroom, or hinted at in the condescending promise of "I'll pray for you" to some perceived lost soul, or expressed in the camera-ready faces of socialites serving dinner at an AIDS hospice.

Then I must ask, what is it? And barring an answer to that, where may I begin to find it?

It could be in your choice of fate for the feral, distemper-afflicted kitten you hold in your gloved hands, steadying him for the needle even as he begs you for life with his not-quite human eyes. It's possible it is lending a more-than-just-ostensibly anonymous ear in the confessional. It might even be the 5-dollar bill that's flown away from the overburdened arms of a perfect stranger on Market Street -- a stranger who for all you know could be as rich as Croesus or half a pathetic paycheck from homelessness, and with whom it would cost you nothing to catch up, in order to return the cash. Then again, these are probably just the predictable gropings of a brainless 28-year old.

Perhaps the gloating Calvinists and their kissing cousins in other protestant sects are right, and all of humanity is fallen, and only through blind faith may we be saved. But I refuse to believe that that is all we are. We also create (usually unknowingly) such beautiful, terrible, blinding, soul-searing moments wherein it becomes possible to see, however briefly, how humanity at its nadir comports itself. This is what we may be, what we were born to be, if we allow it.

My inadequate life has at least given me the experience that these moments are most likely to happen in our meetings with Death. Sitting in his parlor, drinking his water, a nanosecond of clarity can occur, an epiphany we have never before known, and, after it's gone, may only dimly remember, if at all. That is most likely when we may truly shine.

I know I risk repetition (
twice in the same month! Dang!), but the story of Ahmed Ismail Khatib and his parents has stuck with me for longer than I expected, and I am compelled to get this off my chest. When I first read it, I had no words. Not that this is an improvement.

And it is not to say that I believe this to be in fact the Law's essence, its ineffable and adamantine spirit. But it is one of those moments where we actually can come near it. I'm sure of it.

These are longhand directions to God's house, the product of a dim, shoddy memory, written shakily, while on the road, with only a ballpoint pen and a spot of toilet paper. But they're a start.

posted by teh l4m3 at 5:02 PM | Permalink |

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Comments for This Is Not The Law
Oh, it's an improvement teh. Now it is I trying to find the words.

Some feel peace and some live it...those most special among us spread it.

I thought the essay was beautiful, and your being 28 is definitely not a handicap.

Thank you both. And Anna: I'm still an idiot, but maybe it's something that I at least recognize it.


Take no mind of the silliness at our place, we now feel ashamed.

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