Atonement Never Hurts

A little over a year ago, Troy Davis was executed, though there was very serious doubt of his guilt.  But time has passed, and we move on to other things.  After all, there is an election coming up, and people are still unemployed, and our ambassador in Libya was murdered. There is no time to dwell on old news.

Today is the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. If I were more of a believer in the practice of a religion that frames my ethnicity, I wouldn’t be typing on this keyboard right now, but I’m not. But the concept of a day of atonement is good one, religion aside.  Must has happened in the past year. Much always happens in a past year.  A day when one looks back is a good thing, whether at our own lives or the lives around us.

There is no one who couldn’t stand some introspection.  We all have something for which to atone.  We may not want to admit we’re sorry, but we should be.  We could always do better.

And if there isn’t anything in particular that strikes one as atonement worthy, then consider what we could have done to help, or prevent, one of the many things that happened in the past year from happening.  Not because someone paid us to represent them, whether they were on the side of the angels or devils, but because we remain human beings who have a role to play in the existence of our world even when we’re not on the clock.

When I wrote the other day about not being “passionate” as a lawyer, but dispassionate, there was a subtle distinction that some missed.  Jeff Gamso caught it. As much as we may be dispassionate as lawyers, we are simultaneously people, and as people we bring passion to bear on the things about which we feel strongly.  At least we should.

As dispassion should guide our professional judgment, choices and tactics, passion should guide our lives in the sense that we chose to dedicate our time, our goals, our beliefs and our efforts toward things that matter to us.  Money isn’t a belief, but a necessity to an extent that we endure to be available to do other, more worthwhile, things.  Deciding to use our time and energies to help people, to help a cause, to serve a greater good, is to make a life mean something.

This isn’t to say what that belief should be. People on both sides of issues believe they are serving a greater good.  And as much as passion make us feel that our beliefs are right while conflicting beliefs are wrong, it guides us to make the choices that are right for us.  That’s about as good as we can do.

To those who have put their energies and efforts toward making their existence matter, who have followed their passion, question whether you have done all you could, done it honestly and could have done better.  If not, today would be a good day to atone.

To those who couldn’t be bothered to stand for anything because it was inconvenient, or would have interfered with your quest for money, love or world hegemony, today would be a good day to atone for a life wasted.

To those who wanted to stand for something, but were afraid, today would be a good day to atone for your cowardice and fear.

To those who knew what they believed in but pushed it aside for personal gain, personal benefit above all else, today would be a good day to atone for being the worst our species can produce.

There is no one who wouldn’t do well to take a day to think about what we could have done better. Certainly not me.  And the beauty of the concept is that we can start fresh tomorrow and be the kind of person we want to be.  It’s never to late to be a  better person, at least if you’re reading this. It is too late for Troy Davis.

The traditional Jewish greeting on Yom Kippur is G’mar Hatimah Tovah, may you be sealed for a good year in the Book of Life.  It’s up to you whether you make the next year a good one. Make it count.

4 thoughts on “Atonement Never Hurts

  1. Dr Sigmund Droid

    This topic, yes, I like it a lot . . . ‘Tis, to me, speaks of one of life’s most important values – Atonement and its companion, Forgiveness . . . with a heaping-helping of relentless self-reflection, tolerance for those different than I, and, if this is even plausible in the context of a comment on a lawyer’s blwag, an honest attempt to be as non-judgmental as possible . . .

    Though my belief in G-d is not of the mainstream variety, it is deeply rooted in my being. The notion of the flawless judgment of others must be left only to G-d . . . Alas, more reluctantly, but of necessity, the judging too of others is vested to those appointed by our governments – a deal we accept during our journey to this earthly sphere. This judgment, by performed by men and women, is, unfortunately, only as perfect as human beings themselves, which is to say, pretty frickin’ imperfect . . .

    Write it as so in the Book and call it my Life . . . G’mar Hatimah Tovah!!

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