Love and the letter of the law

The moon is full, the night is clear and moon shadows are everywhere.  The moon’s brightness is so strong that only a few stars are visible.  And it does this magic so regularly.  The moon has always gone through all its phases in 29.53 days.  Many ancient counting devices called tally sticks have 29 notches.  The Lebombo tally stick  with 29 distinct notches was left in a cave in South Africa about 35,000 years ago.  No wonder the word month is derived from moon.

Ziggurat-urThe regularity of the moon and sun and other natural phenomena are called laws of nature, but we really need a better term.  Laws of nature are facts, while laws of men are not facts at all.  Laws of men were established because the laws of nature no longer worked to control man’s behavior.

The oldest law code was written about 2100 BC during the reign of King Ur-Nammu who ruled the city state of Ur in present day Iraq.  Ur-Nammu is also famous for building the gigantic Ziggurat–a temple dedicated to a moon god.  Three hundred years later, another ruler of Ur, Hammurabi, carved his Hammurabic Code of 282 laws into a black nine foot column so all his people would know the rules of the kingdom.  Abraham, father of all Arabs and Jews, was born in Ur.  About 300 years after Hammurabi, Abraham’s descendant, Moses, came down with a set of laws somewhat similar to Hammurabi’s but dedicated to one god.  The Hittites, Egyptians and Chinese all soon followed with their own written laws.

All these codes of written laws were turned on their head by a movement which claimed that “the letter of the law kills, but the spirit of the law give life.”   This new movement claimed that love is the foundation of all natural law.  Loving your neighbor as yourself and loving the one God were declared as the foundation of all law.

In the two thousand years since, most have strayed from trying to know the spirit of the law and instead have become practical and down to earth and, consequently, gazillions of laws have been established.  Lawyers have multiplied like bunnies and made modern America the most litigious society on earth.

A small remnant of lawyers continues to try to make human law consistent with the laws of nature.  To these jurists law should be natural–that is consistent with the  instincts and emotions common to man and the lower animals, such as the instinct of self-preservation and love of offspring.

Written laws, then, are just attempts to put into words the laws found in nature.  They will always be lacking, never totally true, and slavishly following them will always lead to problems.  Man-made laws are made to be broken.  Only by breaking and perfecting them can we bring them closer to natural law.

The trouble is that most folks nowadays don’t have any concept of the “spirit of the law.”  As man loses touch with nature, he ceases to know natural law.  The cities where most people live are designed to exclude nature.  Nature is an enemy to be fought.  Those whose world is the city will invariably become separated from natural cycles and natural communities.

All natural cycles and communities are built on cooperation and complementarity.  You may have difficulty seeing how love is manifest in nature.  After all, nature is alleged to be “red in tooth and claw” based on survival of the fittest.  Recently, ecologists have come to realize that the selfish, individual selection central to classic Darwinism is misleading.  The fittest individuals are not single individuals.  They are individuals which are part of communities which help each other.  Each species is part of a community of all sorts of species which are complementary to each other and help each other.  It is the community which is selected, the individual is just the mechanism by which the community is selected.

So think about cooperation and complementary species if “love” seems too wishy-washy and sentimental.

But, please, when abandoning the notion of individual selection and the capitalism which logically sprang from it, don’t trade it in for another set of rules such as socialism  or organic agriculture.   All these rules are imperfect and made to be broken.  Instead focus on the consistencies in natural cycles and communities.  Look at which communities survive and thrive, not which ones meet your external criteria.

Organic agriculture, for example, is appealing in so many ways.  If you define quallities of systems which survive and thrive (e.g., are resilient) in line with most ecologists and define organic farming by IFOAM Basic Standards, you’ll probably contend:  “for most criteria, organic farming displays encouraging and promising features and mirrors the characteristics of farm resilience.”

Yet organic farming has become dominated by farms which focus on stability using the command-and-control approaches of classic resource management.  This class of organic farms has become just a set of industrial farms which follow slightly different rules but the same philosophy as their conventional brethren.  They follow the letter of the law and not the historic spirit of organic farming.

Similarly, so many societies have been founded on the principles of socialism and grew weak and declined.  You may argue that unfettered capitalism has always resulted in the obliteration of species and pollution of the earth.  And you’d be right.  But why not try to understand natural cycles and natural communities rather than put your faith in yet another man-made philosophy which you know will be proven wrong?

Any if you don’t know than any man-made philosophy or law has flaws and will fail you, then you are stuck in a polarized and polarizing position.  You will inevitably come into conflict with other totally convinced people at opposite poles.  You will help create the wicked problems which bedevil our world.



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