What is Law?

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In envisioning transformative justice, how do we contend with the concept of “law”? There is law as a system of rules, roles and penalties that serves a means of social control, in human societies. And then, there is the pattern language of the natural world – laws of physics, chemistry and biology. As a student of nature’s pattern language, I experience a powerful sense of excitement – and molecular realignment – whenever I encounter human words and ways that feel aligned with natural law. I experience the emergence of what adrienne marie brown identifies as: “the whole world/learning/from within.”

Under capitalism and colonialism, human laws are used to preserve property and belonging for a favoured few; they reward “outsourcing” environmental costs to future generations; they enforce prejudice and mete out punishments. Through my life, I’ve participated in “progressive” movements for social change that look to reform such laws, and make social worlds more equitable and inclusive. Struggles for civil rights, gender equality, gay marriage, Indigenous land rights, environmental justice, reproduction rights, sex workers’ rights – the list goes on and on. Such law reforms take decades of focused commitment and struggle. And it’s not like we can achieve some longed-for reform, and then sit back and celebrate. Everywhere across the world, there is backlash, resistance, reversals, and the persistent use of law to enforce inequity and injustice. But at a workshop by Kathi Camelleri this month, I was guided into an embodied experience of Village structured according to an older, truer law. Camelleri had us find and feel what it might be, to live according to a law of love, respect, kindness and generosity, in a pre-contact Indigenous Village.

Camelleri showed us how a Village could weave a social world where each child feels welcomed and wanted – we each and all know we are a sacred gift. She had us move around the room, assuming different roles in a Village organized to affirm and foster each precious one, in their uniqueness. Children, parents, aunties, uncles, elders and hunter-protectors all had roles to play. (And of course we all play different roles, in many ways, on different days….) And once we saw and felt how a Village once was – or could be – structured, Camelleri said, “You see. We know how to do this.”

The workshop brought me home to the very first Village I’ve ever wanted to come home to. It showed how we could embody a way of being and belonging that feels so right, that once we learn it, we already know it’s true. We can feel how we already trust and embody this law, in every way we can, each time we honour the uniqueness of all we love, live and defend. This is law that emerges from the quantum structure of the universe. It expresses the internal structure of the psyche. It is true to our cellular structure. It is our DNA. It is pre-binary and non-binary. And so, no colonial culture can ever change it.

Colonial heteropatriarchy tried to go against natural law, and teach that “Uniqueness doesn’t matter.” But – even after centuries of violence – we know: uniqueness is exactly what matters. It is the very structure of matter. We are each unique; we are not alone in it. Cherishing uniqueness is a path of resonant belonging: to ourselves, each other, and this one planet, in this singular universe, at this never before, never-again moment in time.

After the Village workshop, I felt filled with passionate and compassionate commitment – to live according to the law of love, respect, kindness and generosity. And I felt hope, because I could feel a molecular realignment within and around me. With that, I could envision the possibility of rapid, unpredictable social change. Could laws we live by suddenly transform, as we become aligned with natural law? It feels like “the whole world/learning/from within.” It is a joyous homecoming.

Those who read my words are often people who have been hurt or diminished by the system of laws that govern our world – laws erected out of fear, and used to oppress. Can we go beneath the fear and conditioning, and connect with natural laws? What natural laws do you align yourself with? This might be in direct opposition to the laws of the land, that are created to control and enclose wildness.

When we tap into what is wild in us, we are often breaking the law of the overculture, and going to the deeper sense of what feel like incontrovertible laws of the universe. We are aligning ourselves with what is. What are the deep, natural laws you want to live by? The law of singularity is one I cherish. And the law of hormesis – that too much stress creates harm and imbalance – but just enough stress creates learning and growth. In my studies of physics, chemistry and biology, I learned that Love is the law, at every level of existence. That is law I want to live by. What are you noticing, that wants to emerge through you, that feels irrevocable and deeply true?

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