The Law

The students had sent a representative to ask their question.
"Instructor," he said, bowing slightly, "what is the most important law?"
The dark-skinned teacher removed his glasses and scratched his itchy temple with one of the carved horn arms before setting them down on the velvet-topped desk in front of him. He waited the requisite length of time to build suspense, then squinted up at his student.
"You have studied the laws for two years," he said, "which do you think it is?"
Whispers issued from the huddled group of students at the back of the room. The representative looked back at them for support, but found none. After several false starts, he was able to offer an answer in the tone of a suggestion.
"Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated?"
The instructor held a deadpan for the requisite length of time.
"That is a good law," he said, replacing his glasses and returning his gaze to the papers he had been grading.
The student waited in front of the desk. This secretly pleased the teacher; they were learning his habits. If the student had gone back to the group, he would have received nothing more.
"A good law," the instructor continued, "but not the best law. Not the most important. It carries the letter, but not the spirit, of the most important law."
"What is it, then?" the student asked.
The instructor looked beyond the student at the group, which seemed to be holding their collective breaths. He rose and took a few steps until he stood beside his enormous desk, made to appear all the more imposing by the instructor's short frame.
"There is a law," he said, raising his voice to lecture level, "which, if followed by every person, would make redundant all other laws. It would render your future careers unnecessary, and deprive each and every one of you of the tremendous sums of money you will undoubtedly accumulate from defending the misfortunes and prosecuting the wrongdoings of others."
He waited the requisite length of time.
"It is not enough simply to treat others well. This is a good act, and like any other good act, can be used and abused for the wrong reasons. A man may treat another well simply to build power over him and curry favors. Any good act can be perverted in this way; any save one, and this one incorruptible good is the foundation of all laws."
He waited only half the requisite length of time, in order to catch them by surprise.
"Love everyone unconditionally," he said.
Though silence had been prevailing between statements, it seemed to grow even heavier here as the students stared at him in incomprehension.
"Love everyone, no matter what. Everyone. Every single person. Do this and all good that comes from you is incorruptible. This is the greatest law."
He waited again before returning to his desk. His chair screeched nosily as he dragged it out, sat down, and returned to his papers.
"No one is able to do this, however, and that is why you will be rich."

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