Meditations on mercy

The Triumph of Mercy, by William Artaud  (1763-1823) compliments of Wikimedia Commons.

The Triumph of Mercy, by William Artaud (1763-1823) compliments of Wikimedia Commons.

Dear Mr. Shakespeare, it pains me to say it, but the quality of mercy is a terrible strain. The fact that it falleth as the gentle rain from heaven is both a blessing and a nightmare. We carry umbrellas to keep from getting wet. To save us from the very thing we need.

It (mercy) is twice blessed. It blesses him that gives and him that takes. Which would all be well and good except that mercy by definition is not fair. Even equal distribution is not guaranteed.

It may well be mightiest in the mighty and more attractive than a crown. But mercy hardly feels mighty. We sit in park beside the road talking to ourselves. Can we even do this thing called mercy? Do we even want to?

Our responsibility and therefore our possibilities are unclear to us. Our potential for greatness goes unrealized because the cost looks prohibitive.

Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That, in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation. 

This entire speech from The Merchant of Venice, belongs as a sacred text. Daily meditations on it would surely be of help to world leaders and small town ignorers alike. Yet Mr. Shakespeare, you failed to address the delicate difficulty of going first. That when one lays down the demands of justice to dispense mercy to another, that there is no way of guaranteeing that those same chickens will come home to roost. We can forgive and not be forgiven. We can proffer the benefit of the doubt and not have it extended back. In some cases, we can go to therapy, take big breaths, cry many tears, find the strength to offer mercy . . . and be misjudged and misunderstood by fellow sojourners in pursuit of justice.

The world breaks down to human beings. And Earthly power does then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice; because when the human beings have a name, justice is complicated. While we do well to live committed to the creation of a more just world, true justice is beyond our ability to accurately judge or fairly implement. We are well advised to believe in justice but to stretch ourselves to reach for mercy. To remember that whatever the labelled group we find simple to judge, it is made up of people with names. Unique individuals with hurts and histories that we know not. And for whom we dare not presume to know justice.

To put fragments of your work, Mr. Shakespeare, within seeing distance of homespun verse is a bit blasphemous. With apologies, I nevertheless close with a homegrown attempt to say something about mercy.

Until Who Wins Is Mercy

Right fights wrong and right fights right

Still no ending here in sight

All are hurting, many wronged

More hurting and the pain prolonged

The night extends there is no peace

only tears without release

And will there never be a way

to end the wrongs of sceptred sway?

Our hearts so weary of the fray

helpless we are to walk away:

What else then is there to say?

Forever all is lost . . .

Until who wins is mercy

1 Comment to Meditations on mercy

  1. Dale says:

    Thank you thank you. Yes, right fights right. Yes, until who wins is mercy