The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. – Theodore Parker, by way of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m not sure I believe this anymore. It’s a common refrain among my fellow UUs after the events of this year, a reminder that, like love, justice takes time and justice takes work. But I don’t know if there is any inherent moral arc of the universe. God is inscrutable, possessing something beyond our conception of consciousness and morality, so how can we know if our conception of justice fits?
The Just World hypothesis is, after all, a fallacy. It’s one I’ve fallen prey to so many times before. Things will work out if you put in the effort. No one can get away with so much without some sort of retribution. What goes around, comes around.
It doesn’t, at least not in puny human timescales.
In Buddhist metaphysics, we inhabit the world of samsara, the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction and pain. Without heroic and skillful effort, that cycle rolls on and on.
Justice isn’t God’s responsibility, but ours. It’s a mortal endeavor. Justice takes time, and justice takes work. The arc of the moral universe bends towards justice because we bend it ourselves.
I gained faith this year, but lost much of my optimism. Optimism is no longer an outlook I can rely on, but a deliberate practice, a stone wall built against the oncoming tides of samsara.
Earlier this evening, I wrote a letter on a holiday card to a friend. A member of my graduating class, I’ve recently become reacquainted with this person, and I realized how much it meant to me. That, and a few other small, personal achievements, are what I want to remember this year for. I hope I’ll judge 2017 on the merits of what little I can do to bend that arc towards justice.