If justice and only justice

Lamech's threat of escalating violence

by Ken Sehested

If justice, and only justice, is
            all we ask, none will
                        escape the hangman’s
                                    ugly work.

Some are less culpable, of course, no doubt, some did more, yes, some less righteous than me and mine, some more, some so much more, mucho mas more are worse than others and, in particular, worse than me,

            no comparisons can suffice, when you peel back history by continent, century, empire, pale-faced compared to darkest ebony, but back further still, looking for that original blameless one,

            not that I need to know, fully individuated self that I am, but still it’s the principle of the thing, justice being proportional and all, equivalency being what it is, not false equivalency of course, provisional consideration, by comparison,

            commensurate conditions, contrastive epilogues, contingencies galore, but ordered, right?, traceable correlatives, identifiable parallels, analogous reciprocity, allusive derivatives, if we could just get back to

Abel, the original blameless one,
of whom is recorded only that he shepherded,
          only that he sacrificed, only that he was murdered
by his brother Cain—

CAIN! you’re the one we’ve been looking for, finally, a fitting repository for all blame, the one who snuffed us all when he stuffed Abel’s breathless corpse into the ground, the soil that cried out to the Great Shepherd,

            here he is!, the culprit, he-did-it-first, blame him, we are but his not-knowing, no-fault, not-liable, not-competent-to-stand-trial children, and look, look at Lamech, the great great great great grandchild of Cain, like, he’s worse, he’s the one who announced that “if Cain is avenged sevenfold, surely Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23),

            there’s your escalator if there ever was one, take him, I’m, like, small potatoes by comparison, by tantamount consideration, by relative conditioning, right?, the non-culpable progeny of the one bearing the “mark of Cain,”

            should have seen that before now, that’s the one, the original premise to this tangled conclusion, look, the mark is right there, in plain sight, for everyone to see, like, a neon light in a cloudless night.

East of Eden, our fated home,
marked children that we are,
           Abel seeding Lamech’s threat, compounded
epoch after aeon after era, bloodied soil wailing still.

Yet—who could imagine this?—Cain bore his mark, according to Holy Writ, as an ensign of protection, not a bounty hunter’s poster, backed by none other than Eden’s Architect.

The brutal harvester’s swath grows with each pass, blood exacting blood in kind, and more—as a deterrent, aping Lamech’s scale of recompense—to no end,

            feral marrow feeding on itself in escalating spirals to entropy’s tipping point and inferno’s edge, indeed, it feels like the end of the world as we know it, but remember:

             Advent’s compass, Epiphany’s unveiling, and Lent’s gnarly onus only work in such terrain, such disorder, such threat, when things fall apart in the tide’s turning to extorted tribute amid history’s wreckage, apocalypse now, walking dead and the like, but also,

            beyond every poll’s prediction, heralding angels emerge from darkest eclipse, turning ears to sheer wind, eyes to unseen horizons, wombs to earth’s fertile secret, all of which rend the heart, not to punish but to mend the world.

Behold, the infant’s cry gathers up the sighs
            of the ages, Mary’s mucus-smeared thighs
                        dropping the Promise of deliverance
                                    into Joseph’s bloodied hands,

            Heaven’s disarming initiative of abandoned privilege assaulting the logic of both human and divine vengeance, peasant shepherds, lowly animals, royalty from afar, attendant star and angels arriving as witnesses to Redemption’s extravagant

            resolve to draw all created order from the brink of calamity back to the joyful rest intended—to justice in a lips-locked kiss with peace under Heaven’s sheltering wing, assembling the nations from Eden’s expulsion to the lifted gate of the Holy City’s Beloved Community.

Here be dragons; but One is announced who sates the fears driving all creaturely rancor. “For the world has grown full of peril. In all lands, love is now mingled with grief. The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. . . . Yet hope remains while the Company is true.”*

The Blessed One longs for companions and accomplices in this incendiary
            revolt against the rule of hostility, but that Way’s obligations include
                        enduring broken hearts and risky pilgrimages. Easter’s resurrection
                                    moment—forever contested—forerunning Pentecost’s                                                           
                                              resurrection movement. Ah, but there’s manna to be
                                                            had and encounters with awed, beatific wonder.

Imagine this reassurance from Jesus, to his disciples, before he departed:
            I didn’t say it would be easy.
                        I said it would be worth it.

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*Laladriel (Lady of Lorien), in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org