I might be somebody’s peer this week…

A few weeks ago, I posted here in advance of my relocation of residence from one part of Los Angeles to another.  I just wanted to give fair warning at the time that the consistency of my posts might take hits for a day or two, as my life weathered the necessary disruptions that go along with moving…

Today brings us to another such heads-up, this one of the week-long variety: as it so happens, I may be required to perform my civic duty, and serve as part of a jury of somebody’s peers…

This jury box is actually in Pershing County, Nevada, so if I do end up having to serve this week, it won't be here that I'll be sitting...but you get the general idea...
This jury box is actually in Pershing County, Nevada, so if I do end up having to serve this week, it won’t be here that I’ll be sitting…but you get the general idea…

Here in the States, jury duty is a sort of low-level, generalized dread that most people share.  I believe that in general terms, most of us are more than okay with doing our civic duty of whatever nature…but in specific practice, being forced to give up great chunks of our time on schedules not of our own making that we might attend to the affairs of others not within our usual orbits is just hugely inconvenient.  And of course, Justice-with-a-capital-J shouldn’t really be subject to the mewling desires of convenience, and yet…when have you ever heard someone say, “Dude, I’m so stoked: I may get to do jury duty this week!!

And so my reality for the week is now one of ongoing uncertainty.  That is, procedurally, I’m now required to call in to an automated system telephone number each evening after 5:00 p.m., punch in the identifying code numbers they’ve assigned me so that the system can identify me as me, and then wait to learn my fate for the following day.  The system may — as it did last night — verbally clap me on the shoulder and tell me I can go off and play the next day, I’m not needed for in-person service at the courthouse after all…or it may tell me that I’m suddenly obligated to rise and shine at an atypically (for me) early hour, groom myself impeccably (which I actually do anyway, so no gripes on this score…), and report to the halls of Justice downtown at whatever appointed hour, so that I can sit through the process of lawyers weeding out one undesirable potential juror after another, until they finally have enough acceptable candidates to make up a sufficiently numbered jury of some accused party’s peers.  And this practice actually goes back quite a way in the history books (and scrolls…and probably even cave paintings…)…

This is the jury from the 1893 trial of Lizzie Borden -- just one example of a jury from yesteryear (and side-note: if cultivation of a mustache so large that little children could swing from either side of it were still all the rage for jurors, we wouldn't even be having this conversation, as I can't offer that kind of hirsute fecundity)...
This is the jury from the 1893 trial of Lizzie Borden — just one example of a jury from yesteryear (and side-note: if cultivation of a mustache so large that little children could swing from either side of it were still all the rage for jurors, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, as I can’t offer that kind of hirsute fecundity…)…

We here in the US trace our use of the jury back — as we trace so many of our legal mechanisms and practices back — to the English Common Law system.  The jury can also be found, however, in even older societies, such as those of the Germanic tribes that roamed Northern Europe hundreds of years ago, or all the way back to the great city-states of ancient Greece.

At any rate, my week has thus been cast into a bit of disarray, which may affect my ability to post here as I normally would.  I tend to like hitting the keyboard right out of bed, so that for the rest of the day, I can relax, knowing I’ve lodged some thoughts and ideas with the world.  If I need to instead report downtown to the minions of Lady Justice, though, I’ll admit to you right now that it’s not super-likely that I’ll set my alarm such that I’m up with the farmers and the fisherfolk, thus enabling me to draft and edit a proper post before closing my front door behind me and making for the courthouse.  So, we’ll see what happens.  And in the meantime, I’ll be ruminating on thoughts of Justice, and mythological/iconic embodiments thereof…

Street art depicting Lady Justice, a very enduring representation of our collective iconic view toward the concept of Justice...
Street art depicting Lady Justice, a very enduring representation of our collective iconic view toward the concept of Justice…

There is of course the well-known icon we call Lady Justice: the blindfolded female figure bearing scales and often a sword, who dates back to such Deities as the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at, and the Greek Goddesses Themis and Dike.  Also in the Egyptian fold would be the great God of the Underworld, Anubis, who uses similar scales to weigh the heart of any arriving deceased soul against the feather of Ma’at…and if the heart is light and free of significant sin, the soul will be welcomed into the afterlife to pass an enjoyable eternity, while any possessor of a heart heavy enough with sin to outbalance the feather will instead be tossed to the fearsome demoness, Ammit, to be devoured like chum shoveled unflinchingly to a shark…  The Greeks also dealt with ideas of Divine Justice even beyond the two Goddesses mentioned above: the Olympian Deities installed three wise men — Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus — as the Judges of the dead in the Greek Underworld of Tartarus.  Later visitors to the dark land of Tartarus often glimpsed the trio presiding over some contemplation of Justice or other there in the eternal gloom…

Then over in Astrology, we have one of the Zodiac Signs — Libra, the Scales — devoted to the rather related concept of balance…

The Symbol for the Sign of Libra, the Scales...
The Symbol for the Sign of Libra, the Scales…

And there’s also the Justice Card in Tarot.  This Card can be found in the majority of most of the best-known and widely-used decks, such as the famed Rider-Waite-Smith (“RWS”) deck and its offshoots and imitators, and it represents not only possible legal concerns, but also greater concepts of Justice, sometimes on the more cosmic level, as well as ideas of balance, wrongs being or needing to be righted, the need to rein in and compensate for any excesses, and notions of fairness.  It’s interesting to note, too, that when he was fashioning his own Thoth deck, Aleister Crowley changed this card so as to no longer be named “Justice” — the Thoth deck instead contains a card called “Adjustment.”  Crowley’s reasoning was that the Universe is not actually just…but it is precise, and it will make adjustments to uphold that precision.

The RWS Justice Card -- she's not blindfolded, but the scales and the sword are there...
The RWS Justice Card — she’s not blindfolded, but the scales and the sword are there…
Crowley's Thoth deck Adjustment Card, rendered by artist Lady Frieda Harris...
Crowley’s Thoth deck Adjustment Card, rendered by artist Lady Frieda Harris…

And Crowley’s distinction also raises an interesting point for me: nature is outstanding when it comes to making and enforcing laws…humans are a lot less successful at it.  I believe that’s the simple explanation as to why our courts are choked with so many cases, why innocent people are accused and even convicted of wrongdoing, and why guilty parties at times go free: humans make and uphold our social laws, and humans are very, very flawed and fallible creatures.  On the other hand, when’s the last time you stumbled upon a spot where gravity failed to work as expected, where fire didn’t consume wood, or where sound chose to move at a bunch of different speeds just because it felt like doing so…?

So I may be pulled away from this column this week, or I may not — I’ll learn about that one day at a time.  If I fail to appear, though, you’ll know the likely reason why.  Meanwhile, I may just devote any articles that I do get to generate, to ideas about Justice.  Stay tuned…and maybe try to stay balanced if you can, too…

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