If it isn’t shockingly obvious from some of the other posts on this blog, or if you’re brand new over here (hi!) while I’m a writer making strides towards enlightenment, my side gig is as priest and exorcist. Now, I have not yet put Exorcist on a business card, mostly because real exorcisms are damn tricky (pun intended) and require deep work whether you’re dealing with a simple ghost haunting in an unpleasant manner, or something slightly uglier and stickier. Alive or dead, visible or invisible, noooobody likes change, and a real exorcism (as opposed to ones depicted in fiction) is change and about as difficult as court-mandated therapy.
I bring this up, because I recently had jury duty with the federal district court and I’ll be honest: I was looking forward to jury duty about as much as the next person, which is to say, I wasn’t. It’s not that I don’t want to do my civic duty. I do. It’s just inconvenient, and I do have ethical issues with the broken nature of our justice system and I wasn’t actually sure I could be objective in the way the courts would prefer I be as a juror.
But the moment I walked in the door of Buffalo’s relatively new federal district courthouse – even just to stand in line for security – it was like being hit with an energetic sledgehammer and in that moment all my practical and ethical concerns about serving on a jury melted away, as if they were never particularly important to begin with (and I assure you, they were). I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on until a few hours later. In between chatting with other prospective jurors, watching a video on jury duty, idly preparing my sermon for Sunday, and reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, I also wrote this:
The Federal Court is a fascinating place that I find energetically recognizable. This is the holy place of our nation and entering into it when called is like unto entering a modern cathedral – it is true that people have not prayed so continuously on this particular spot for thousands of years… however, it has been consecrated to a higher purpose than the mundane, imbued with the hopes and fears not just of the framers of the country, though certainly them, too. It is everyone in a line unbroken, going back further than history records – everyone who yearns for greater justice to be born, everyone who bristled under the boot of injustice during all that time.
And entering in, voluntarily or not, we lay aside all that we purport to show as we begin to engage in the ritual of justice as best we can – so riddled with faults and cracks, inherently faulty, and yet so much better than what has come before, we struggle on, one step at a time, taking the next biggest step we can manage and it finds us doing, as always, the best we can, blinded and bound by the ego as it whispers lies in our ears.
Still we stumble on.
And this place, made holy not by religion and a striving to please a god, but rather justice and the attempt to embody it better today than yesterday, it crumbles resistance brought to it and instead imbues all but the most hard-hearted in the beautiful, singular wish – to be fair.
But how can we ever be fair in this broken world? We cannot. But if we do not reach for it, who would we then be?
No one with merit.
I’m fully aware that I’ve been writing for the last year about a character who enters into a culture which believes she is the goddess of justice reborn. Which was all fun and games to me until I walked into a cathedral to, if not the god/goddess of justice, then very certainly the metaphysical embodiment of the age-old human yearning perhaps first for vengeance, and then perhaps for justice, and perhaps very eventually, fairness.
And I felt, very much, like the priest of a different god entering into the cathedral of a colleague – yes, I was wearing my clergy collar at the time. And as I was required to be there, I could not help but to notice that – at least metaphysically speaking – what once might have been the god of vengeance has become the god of justice and is perhaps slowly changing into the god of fairness.
And perhaps one day, we will all be ready for it to make the leap and become the god of mercy, at which point the statue can drop the sword.