Friends of the Law

It’s puzzling that so many moral codes, like the speed limit, seem made to be broken: that those who would adhere to the law instead are forced, it seems forced is the right word, to decide on a degree of disregard; the quality of a law, like that of tap water, declining as fewer of us use it and other options establish themselves. The most orthodox religions have thousand-year-old culturally embraced mechanisms for their own disregard.

Once these workaround systems are established, the code or law appears unusable. Who can use it, for what it was intended to be used: to guide our decision making in relation to groups too large for us to accurately anticipate their needs? Who can use it, for its side effects: the confidence that comes from knowing our actions, however unpopular, are inside it?

The perfect moral code, then, is the one so strict that everything not expressly forbidden by it must be ok, and that everything that is expressly forbidden by it is not. This is what we pine for. This, and one so clearly described that it is clear on which side of forbidden each and every of our actions stand.

Not finding it, we make it ourselves.

We are not surprised to find a law in practice is not a logical, but a social creature; unexpectedly, though, we find the practical strength of its dictates determined by how public their requirements are; and bizarrely, the more obvious its observance would be to strangers, the more likely it is to be broken.

I’m not sure how to make the speed limit a secret.

Practical law is a forest we see because of the leafy trees in it; the well-established, the evergreen or in season; those that have grown year after year after year. As a group. the picture they make is perfect and uniform; from a distance, or in dim light, or viewed at 75 mph, the dead trees lean practically invisible; the fallen branches change not a thing.

Conservationists might hold that to ‘clean’ a forest is just a slow way to kill it–and driving on, here are groups of sickly gray where nothing healthy grows– clear those instead: the places where standing together means nothing, where any number of stalking individuals, because of their shapes, make nothing together but alone.

And on Saturdays, then, we go back and walk under the leafy branches, and how pleasant and how satisfying, to pick up a piece of dead wood, crumble it in our hands, let the porous bits of it drift down to the ground, as we go–or without thinking even, crush some beneath our feet, hiking through.

You rake.

3 thoughts on “Friends of the Law

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