By Madronna Holden
“He is confined to solitary twenty-three hours a day in a prison cell that measures 9’X12′. The cell has a solid front, preventing any view of the outside world…Like most of his fellow prisoners on Arkansas’s Death Row, he claims to be innocent. In Damien Echols’s case, however, there’s substantial evidence that the claim is true”.
So begins Jeff Zaleskki’s introduction to the issue of Parabola on the theme of justice. In line with this theme Parabola interviewed Echols, “but not because he probably is innocent. We all have suffered injustice and we all have tolerated, even caused it.” Parabola is interested in Echol’s case because he is a Zen master who lives day in and day out in the face of the injustice that committed him to death row.
There is clearly ample injustice in our world today– injustice that those organizations linked to this site under the category of “environmental justice” dedicate themselves to changing. Injustice in climate change, for instance, that causes the oceans to rise over island nations that contribute little if anything to this global problem. And there is injustice surely in the growing disparity between the rich and poor everywhere.
But is there justice and if so, where do we find it? In God, in religion, in humanism? Some of the Parabola articles examine these directions, including the one that honors the words of the strikingly compassionate believer Etty Hillesum, who died in the Holocaust, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who lays out the “sacred foundations of justice in Islam”.
For myself, I find justice in the natural model of reciprocity expressed in the folktales of ancient peoples. I am honored that Parabola allowed me to add my own voice to such eloquent ones as those above on this score. Such wise tales assure us that life does not abandon her children– even if a great injustices take more than one generation to redress, as expressed in an eloquent tale many of those stolen into slavery from Africa knew.
As always, this issue of Parabola indicates that we cannot know ourselves too well.
I am moved by those who meditate on this topic alongside me.
But I am moved most of all by those of you who work for justice on our shared earth.
Many public and university libraries carry Parabola.