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Law 196

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god, probably didn't see this coming. Considering he was also known as the god of justice and equity, he really should’ve had an inkling of this kind of cosmic irony.

Though we shouldn’t blame a dusty old deity when it's really our own damn fault. And by our own damn fault, I mean, humanity. As in human arrogance, our rather celebrated celestial self-centeredness. Especially mine.

Yet, I can’t resist pointing a finger back a few thousand years to a Babylonian king who likely started the whole thing rolling, and falling into my, admittedly, helpless hands. And I’m staring at Hammurabi right now standing rather rigidly before me. He’s sporting a nutshell of a cap and rocking a trapezoidal beard that could easily make him an honorary member of ZZ Top.

Of course, he’s not alone. His celestial buddy, Shamash is majestically seated before him. Replete with sun flames busting out his shoulders. You’d think I’d be shaking in awe before a monumental king and a blazing sun god, but I was more concerned with a noisy troupe of school kids crowding my space.

You get that a lot in museums. Timeless art and artifacts surrounded by tiresome little farts and fanatics. The kids seemed frantic to complete their best-of-the-Louvre checklist so they could get credit from their teacher who was likely enjoying a quiet coffee in a nearby cafe. I should have cut them some slack for blocking my unobstructed view of that very ancient basalt stele. I should have been patient, knowing what I knew, but in the moment, I had to get close, really close to it.

The Code.

The over four thousand lines of cuneiform text beneath the carving of Shamash handing Hammurabi the laws of the land. The sun god benevolently bestowing almost three hundred rules of jurisprudence to the king. The seven foot black slab should have inspired a sense of pride, confidence, and reassurance in the continuity of civilization. Instead, it filled me with dread.

I’d come to the Louvre from halfway around the world to see The Code. To really see it. To really believe it. Because like Shamash, another sun god had sent a message from halfway across the galaxy. To me. To all of us. The message wasn’t carved in black basalt, but it was clear enough.

It would take volumes to explain the particulars, but let’s stick with the unfortunate fact that not long ago I was the lead on the ill-fated CERN wormhole experiment that snuffed out a star about fifty thousand light years away. A horrific mistake. A terrible accident.

Didn’t matter. In the age of relativism, it appears that there are still absolutes in the universe. At least to the ancient sentients who disseminated The Code throughout the stars millennia ago. And they’d let me and my team at CERN know it through a series of cryptic interstellar transmissions: Law 196 was in effect.

I pushed my way through the milling school kids, innocents who didn’t deserve the punishment I did, and leaned as close to the immovable basalt stele as the Louvre permits. I scanned the cuneiform for the line I’d memorized. The line, the law, I’d crossed, arrogantly, blindly.

Law 196: If a man should blind the eye of another man, they shall blind his eye.

Seemed pretty clear what was coming. I was left with Shamash, Hammurabi and a planet’s worth of guilt, while the school kids raced away. Hopefully, to enjoy a final few hours of light and warmth before the sun went down.




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