Note: This deceptively simple fable is what I paid my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor for. Learning the answer to the question of Whether we can have a just world – not whether we will have a just world — is one of the big questions of history, & I could only answer it with my sinew and blood .. ..
Justice is a bell. Justice is a mocking bird who rehearses song at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />midnight in belief in dawn. Justice is heartbeat. Justice is blood. The essential real deal. Joy and purpose.
The first paper I wrote in college was “What is Justice?” I never guessed I would spend or pay my life and my very teeth to answer that question.
Somewhere in the Pleistocene of my twenties, a stone-tablets question appeared to me with an eerie and wistful persistence: Can we have a just world? Can we really ever have a just world or will the elite, mainly white, always have to have a filthy little secret, a permanently under-educated class, mainly non-white, to get the grotty jobs done?
I believed that education is the highest value and riches. Education was my mansion, my bullion. I lived a life of astonishing – thunderstruck — vividness because education opened my mind, my heart, stuck my fingers in the socket of the universe. Raw joy. Wild joy. Delicious joy.
A human right, I thought, this simple untarnishing joy. A self-evident human right. The key to this joy, the necessity to this joy, its breadth, delicacy, and leopard strength, is education.
So, I asked, could a person have the best possible liberal arts (tolerance, then appreciation for individual differences) education and do one of the non-glam jobs? Or, again, would we have to have this unspoken-of-class to wash our windows and collect our garbage?
I’d been a high school English teacher for ten years when this question appeared like Excalibur in the stone. Could there be a just world?
As the universe unscrolled for me the layers of this question, I wondered who I could ‘study’ to the True Answer? Eventually I knew it was true that I could only know the sinew and blood of the answer if I studied myself.
I could not go into the dear Peace Corps or Vista for two years and then back again after this useful dabble to the luxurious enclaves of academe or corporate, the gated worlds of group health plans and pensions.
Was education sufficient? Was it the highest value? Could I demand the inalienable right to a splendid education for every human being on Earth?
Well, twenty-one years as a self-employed window washer later, like the Ancient Mariner, I can hold you, hapless Wedding Guest, with glittering eye and say, adamantine and emerald, “Yes. Education is the Grail, does suffice, is armor, is amour, is hope, does not rust.”
Every hour of all those days was made more lively and tender and delectable because of the mirth, courage, insight, and wonder that education offers.
There is no smidgen of a question that education guarded me in dark nights and brought holy mockingbird song to my dawns.
I bought the answer to this great question, the Justice question, with the hours of my life. If I had it to do all over again, I was asked recently by a handsome rich Canadian who had drunk six martinis and was eating pistachios, would I do it over again? Lose my teeth, not go to the doctor for twenty-six years, face this pensionless old age?
I considered his question soberly. “To have earned in my flesh the burning answer to one of the great questions of our new millennium, it was worth my life. I can say ringingly to my species that every single human being’s life time is just as valuable to herself or himself as any other human being’s. That tolerance, then appreciation for individual differences is the daily lesson and the ‘point.’
Education can make the life hours even more fun and more searingly interesting. Curiosity is tasty. You don’t have to ‘follow your bliss’ for money.
Of course it’s absurd and obscene that the poor and the self-employed have no health insurance. Of course eventually we have to figure out how to share around the grotty jobs. Of course poverty utterly sucks. Of course I’d rather have a car with air conditioning.
If I hadn’t been so distilledly educated, I probably wouldn’t be besotted with the etymology of words and wouldn’t have known that ‘frolic’ means ‘swift gladness’ or that ‘rhapsody’ means ‘woven song.’
Justice is a bell. Justice is a mocking bird who rehearses song at midnight in belief in dawn. Justice is heartbeat. Justice is blood. The essential real deal. Joy and purpose.
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10 Jaguar . Ix . Ocelot . Panther . North . tzol 114 . 09.23.05 fri
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