Monday, January 25, 2016

What the "Law of the Lord" Might Look Like If We Saw Things Aright

Understandably, the human race has a love/hate relationship with rules. On the one hand, we like having law enforcement when we need protection from some form of injustice. On the other hand, we don't like being caught when we are the ones from whom another needs protection. We like it when the bad guys are nabbed by the authorities (for the most part), but we don't like it so much when the authorities use their power for evil ends.

Adam and Eve enjoyed paradise, but they didn't necessarily like the fact that their one prohibition was an essential element in the fabric of holding paradise together. They "loved the law of the Lord" when it delivered them from slavery and barbaric treatment- but they were not so much fans of it, when it came back to bite them (quite literally) in the form of seraph serpents.

I recall how frustrated football fans were a few years back when the "replacement refs" were standing in for the "real refs", who happened to be on strike. The truth is the replacements did their best, but they honestly lacked the skill that the professionals. When the professionals finally returned, the fans behaved much like the Israelites after receiving the Law of the Lord. Indeed, I've never seen so much enthusiasm concerning the rules being restored. Yet what this reveals to me beyond the old adage; "you don't know what you got 'til it's gone", is the fact that if we actually perceived just laws as we ought, we might find ourselves grumbling and murmuring quite a bit less. Below I present a few examples of what such positive (if humorous) laws might look like:

1. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery = Thou shalt rather love thy wife with thy whole mind, heart, and imagination… for the alternative is truly exhausting to think about.  

Translation: It is indeed exhausting to have to imagine the work I would have to put in- pretending to be true to one person- while pretending to be in love with another. All that lying and plotting would be quite tiresome. Not to mention the perpetual awkwardness of pretending to be "all in" on a relationship in which I am "all out."   

2. Thou Shalt Not Run A Red Light  = Thou shalt rather live long and enjoy a pleasurable drive to thy destination.

Translation: Our problem is not with the law per se, our problem is with how it applies to ourselves. We are fine with justice for others, but as for ourselves… I think we would prefer far greater latitude. In these situations the common goods trumps our own personal desire to apply justice arbitrarily.  

3. Thou Shalt Not Kill Tom Brady with a Helmet to Helmet Hit = Thou shalt rather let him live, so that on the rare occasion in which thou beatest him, thou shalt enjoy watching him cry.

Translation: Even when we dislike somebody immensely (perhaps even with good reason), murder is never an option. To the contrary, true justice is served, not simply by killing the guilty man, but by watching him do hard time. 

4. Thou Shalt Wear No Unapproved Garb To School = Thou shalt rather wear holy attire, for as the band ZZ Top once said; "every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man".

Translation: Wearing a uniform may not initially seem liberating, but if perhaps we saw things as we ought, we might recognize that the most important people in the world tend to wear uniforms. Thus a uniform, at least in its most exalted form, suggests dignity of office. What it seeks to move away from is a superficial sense of what distinguishes us (i.e. like the latest trend). A man's vestment in the most noble sense is truly what "distinguishes" us.     

5. Thou Shalt Not Sully Thy Lips With any "Yo Momma Jokes" = Thou shalt rather celebrate "yo momma", and every other momma besides, for without "yo momma" you would have no life at all.

Translation: The holy name of God (as well as the holy name of your mother) are names that we dare not take in vain. In a sense by mocking these holy names, we have not really destroyed them (for they are indeed eternally holy names). However, what we do jeopardize is our own existence, for when we do profane them, we profane the very ground of our existence.

6. Keep Holy the Sabbath = Thou shalt thankest God whene'er it is Friday. 

Translation: Every time Friday rolls around we really should thank God for it. After all, without God's "imposition" of this commandment, who knows if this day would ever exist at all. Even as we speak there are those slave drivers out there looking for a way to obliterate it. The world always tends toward slavery (see above), but God gave us this command, not to imprison us on Sunday, but in the faint hope that we might actually take a break from the drudgery of endless work.

7. Thou Shalt Have No False Gods Before Me = Seeing as how God holdeth all the cards, it would seem most wise to grant him pride of place at the table of thy thoughts, for thy lucky T-Shirt can only take you so far.    

Translation: It is highly irrational to impute omnipotence to something which clearly lacks it (insert anything in the world here______________). On the other hand, if God does indeed exist, then what could be more rational than to say that he is "second to none"?

8. Thou Shalt Not Break Any of the Rules of the Game = If thou dost truly love the game as thou claimest, then thou shouldst keep the rules, for without the rules, there is neither a game, nor a player.

Translation: Though the referee penalizes a player for a violation of the rule, it is those same rules (and referees) which make victory and triumph possible.  

9. Thou Shalt Avoid Any Foul or Dissonant Notes On Thy Instrument = Thou shalt rather study thy instrument, practice it faithfully, and subsequently make beautiful music, and if thou doest this, even thy dissonant notes shall become melodious.

Translation: People tend to see art and music as intrinsically liberal and even anarchic. And while this may have some basis in truth, what they often fail to recognize is the profoundly dogmatic and mathematical side of the arts. On a certain level, it is true, the canvas invites the imagination to go wild. Indeed, your only limit is your imagination. On the other hand, this is only partially true, for the canvas does have its physical boundaries (even were you to call your entire house your canvas). The same goes for music. You can play whatever you like, but the liberality comes not in the fact that you have a million chords, but a million ears. The point is you can wear whatever outfit you want and present yourself in the most quirkily disheveled way, but if you are not a disciplined artist, your success will be fleeting at best.

10. Thou Shalt Not "Cry Wolf" = Thou shalt rather be a man of thy word, so that when thou dost cry wolf, thou wilt be believed.

Translation: If a man is not in touch with the truth, he is not living in reality, and if he is not living in reality, he may be teetering on the edge of delusion. In any case, a society functions or falls on whether or not we can trust one another. In a society of liars, tyrannical law enforcement is inevitable.

11. Thou Shalt Not Steal = Thou shalt rather be grateful for what thou hast, for in truth thou hast already won the lottery.

Translation: Generally speaking, we seek to steal from others when we no longer recognize the good in our own lives. Stealing isn't consigned to the poor alone. In fact, stealing (in the various forms it takes) actually transcends class. Why? Apart from cases of desperation, this behavior seems to arise out a lack of gratitude for what one already has. A simple litany of gratitude is a good way to avoid falling into this trap. If nothing else it offers a fine catalogue of all the things that we have already "stolen" from God, graces and gifts that have we have failed to recognize as such.

12. Thou Shalt Neither Covet Thy Neighbor's Goods Nor His Wife = Thou shalt rather knowest what thou hast before it is gone… quoth Joni Mitchell      

Translation: How many tragic love songs (or rather love-less songs) need to be penned for one to recognize the positive side of this command? Stop trying to possess something that doesn't belong to you. The problem isn't in what you have, the problem stems from the fact that when we do have something, we don't want it anymore, and thus fail to see its original beauty. If we want to be some sort   miserable ghost, repeating the same mistake for eternity, this would seem to be the perfect recipe for it (i.e coveting). Why not instead train your eye and imagination to see in your beloved (and all the rest that you have) a priceless commodity that could be lost at any moment. This is not only a possibility, but according to the history of pop music, a promise!  At least that's what bands like Cinderella (and a million others) seem to think.


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