Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Melville's Metaphysics makes my morning

Well, I've finished my third day of jury duty, and the case is closed. I have no idea how long a typical trial runs, but it sure felt intense and fast to me. We found the accused innocent of two counts of burgelery and one count of safecracking, but guilty of one count of theft. Tomorrow I'm back in the jury pool, which seems way anti-climactic.

This was my first time called. The experience was draining, moving and exhilirating. I was amazed that a systerm which depends on the honesty, thoughtfulness and intelligence of citizens worked so well. At the end of the day, one of my fellow jurors said that if she is ever called into court, she hopes her jury deliberates as carefully and intellegently as we did. It made me deeply proud to be an American, for like the bajillionth time in my life. (I will miss that feeling, I am sure, when we make aliyah, God willing.)

The judge, Nancy McDonnell was a mensch and a scholar. Her manner was the perfect balance of proffesionalism and personal grace. She made everyone in the room feel respected, yet we also felt comfortable and at ease. I guess I set my hopes too low when meeting new people, because I was amazed by the decency of my fellow citizens on the jury with me. The terms "citizenship" and "duty" kept going through my mind, as I watched the care and consideration that they showed. Each of us was from such different backgrounds, but we worked together with respect, thouroghness and diligence.

The facts of the case are too depressing to write about here. Suffice it to say, I came home at night needing to kiss and hug my kids, and thanking God I did not grow up in the inner city. It obvious that we must not take our gifts from Hashem for granted, but it rarely strikes to my core as vicerally as it has this week. It made me concerned and sad, that none of us on the jury were really peers with the accused, if peer refers to race, education, neighborhood or economic background. But I believe he got as fair and just a verdict as we could possibly have given.

If it weren't for the guilt of missing so many days at work, I would have nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

I had thought that there would be a lot more dead time waiting around. So on Moday, figuring it would keep me busy, I started reading Moby Dick. Although I didnt get as far as I anticipated, I did get past Father Mapple's sermon. Right before that, I was uplifted by Ishmael's thought regarding mortality. It was powerful perspective on a weighty day.

"Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.
 Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance.
 Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun    through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
 Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being.
In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me."

Herman Melville

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