I overheard a conversation a few weeks ago, between a few people who were discussing the news of the world in general. What caught my attention was someone remarking that it seemed the Universe had no sense of justice. I thought the observation / position would make for an interesting exercise in thought and belief; and so I have been contemplating this since. In the end, I agree and I disagree. If we regard the Universe / Nature as being something ultimately subject to our will and our various notions of justice; then it is right to say that Nature has no real sense of justice. Male grizzly bears, for example, are known to attack females with cubs, with the goal of killing the cubs. They do this because, as soon as a mother grizzly loses her cubs, she finds herself in estrus – biologically ready to mate – and males understand that killing cubs is a means by which they might pass along their own genetics. There is no human sense of justice here. It is also possible in some cases that a ‘victorious’ male inadvertently kills his own offspring. This is a feature of life and existence in the world of grizzly bears, and it has nothing to do with our sense of morality or fairness. It’s doubtful that fairness enters into the situation from the bears’ perspectives, either: either a male loses his chance to reproduce, or a female loses her cubs in an act that most humans would consider akin to rape, and then there is the point of view of the cubs to consider. As grizzly bears do exhibit their own sense of intelligent and socialized behavior, this example also strikes down the notion that the concept of justice is something peculiar to intelligent, social animals.
On the other hand, if we understand Nature as a being on its own terms, perhaps aware of our various agendas (along with those of every other being in existence) but either unable or unwilling to constrain itself by those agendas, then we are presented with the possibility that Nature does have the capacity for justice … but if so, then by its own notions of the concept, rather than ours. As an adherent of the religious perspective of Relative Being, I’m inclined to perceive Nature not only as a being, but as a supreme being, as Being, itself. With that in mind, I also believe that Nature is capable of its own sense of justice. But what might that be?
An understanding of what is meant by ‘justice’ is a good place to start answering this question. We humans have been discussing the concept of justice for a long time; but even among our species, the concept seems to be a little different from culture to culture, from one time period to the next. Scarce wonder, then, that Nature would not see fit to constrain itself to our notion of justice, when we can’t even fully agree among ourselves what justice really is! In most cases, though, it would seem as though justice is understood to be an action that is intended to maintain a sense of fairness and / or equilibrium. What is ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ tends to be a very relative sort of notion. As it might pertain to Nature, fairness and equilibrium might be best seen as is, and is not. From my understanding, Nature exists for the sake of existing. The counterbalance of existence is non-existence.
So, if balance and fairness are at the heart of justice, and we assume this applies to Nature (which is a bit of a leap – we are, after all, only the parts contemplating the whole when it comes to existence); then it would seem that the undoing is the balance of all that is done. One could also say that death is Nature’s justice, as it is something that must happen to all that live … it is the one thing that happens to us all. This may seem at first to be more grim than it is intended: I do not consider justice to necessarily mean punishment; and there are numerous examples in which death is a merciful end to an unjust suffering. Also, while some might take this as an advocation of sorts for capital punishment, I can assure readers that this is most certainly not the case: I do not think governments should get mixed up with religions, or vice versa. When discussing Nature’s notion of justice, our agendas have very little place in the conversation; and I believe judgment as to when a person dies should be left to Nature, rather than taken up by us.
If Natural justice is an eventual end to all things, and Nature is the supreme being, we would expect that Nature must itself sometime end, or become the supreme hypocrite. Indeed, it would seem most of our scientists today agree upon the notion that sometime, somehow, our Universe will cease to exist. How this might happen is a matter of scientific opinion and debate; but I think most scientists are fairly sure that it will happen at some point. Again referring to the perspective of Relative Being, Nature came from nothing … there is a symbiosis between being and not being, and one requires the other. When our Universe finally ends, it would stand to reason from this perspective that it will renew itself and begin again. The counterbalance to not being is being.
What all of this eventually led me to, and where I am still trying to reconcile my thoughts with my beliefs, is when it comes to the matter of the gods. If the supreme being, our Universe, is not immortal, how could gods be? If Natural justice is death; then how could an immortal deity be a just one? What is fair in Nature, what is just, should apply to all equally – why or how would a god be above this? One possibility is to suppose that the gods somehow exist outside of Nature in some sort of immortal bubble or kingdom that knows no concept for time. The problem I see with this way of thinking is that Nature is Being, and anything that is, must be a part of Being … it is difficult to argue a position in which a deity (or anything else) exists outside of existence, arguing for the existence of freezing flames would be an easier task. More likely, is that what we consider to exist outside of existence is something exists beyond our notion or understanding of existence, but not outside of existence, itself.
Does Nature have a sense of justice? It would seem so, in the fact that all that is, must eventually cease to be. If Nature were to be a judge in its own court of justice, it would seem Time would serve as its prosecution, against which all defenses are eventually dismantled. Are the gods subject to this justice? Again, it would seem they must be … if existence is not eternal, then how can anything that exists be eternal? If this is the case, why do we so often claim or believe otherwise? Returning this writing to the conversation that first inspired this train of thought, there are a lot of people fighting and dying in our world right now who are doing so out of a perceived notion of immortality. Justice exists in our Universe, and it will eventually come to all of these people – as it will come to us all – but it may not come in the form they envision, it is actually highly unlikely that it will do so. It may also not come in the form we would prefer to see. This is because, in the end, Nature’s justice is not subject to our wishes. What I would tell the woman I heard say that there is no justice in the Universe, were I to see her again, is that just because it does not exist in a way we readily perceive does not mean it does not exist.