Friday, January 13, 2012

On Equity



Equity is a beautiful word, too beautiful for its own good, possibly...

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Words, generally speaking, are not equitable; even when we try to force them to be so. Words, when skilfully used, appear to hold themselves aloof from mere circumstance; but this is merely an effect. Words, even in the hands of a master, are impregnated by strait and circumstance; even those straits that they preen themselves on having avoided, even those circumstances they appear most gloriously to transcend.

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I said that equity is a beautiful word; it has a beauty of association. Equities, on the other hand, though it sounds as well, is damned by association. Our fallen minds and sinful hearts are drawn into mere businesslike usage (Locke would have approved) but fail to notice when business-shorthand is transposed into pseudo-rectitude, fake authority, and magical cant. The word equity, I believe, was felt and understood by English religious writers of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to be a word of particular moral beauty and was used by them in that understanding and to that effect. But: used casuistically; and therefore, to the extent that all casuistry is dramatic, used dramatically.

-- Geoffrey Hill, from a sermon preached October 16, 2011

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