On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Three
A Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens

Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness—

Amos 6:12

In Chapter Three of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well, the virtue of justice is described as the equilibrium of self-regard and a love for one’s neighbor.  In many ways, that runs counter to the popular perspective of today’s civil and criminal judicial system. It is not a dynamic that occurs naturally in human nature, and its progress forward must be intentional.

As Karen wrote

Justice avoids both selflessness and selfishness. Only when one attains this virtuous mean can one be just within oneself, and within one’s community, for justice is about giving everyone his or her due: oneself, others, and God. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Scripture admonishes (Matt. 22:39). Implicit in this command is the idea that one must love oneself and that one cannot love one’s neighbor properly without such love. One cannot love one’s neighbor properly if one loves oneself too much—or too little. In an important sense, then, the virtue of justice begins with justice toward the self.

It is said that “the wheels of justice turn slowly.” Why, if they turn too slowly, is justice ultimately thwarted?

On Reading Well