Well, let me begin a tentative series of thoughts on natural law by thinking about bread. I have been trying my hand at making bread this week with varied success. Several loaves turned out but others remained flat and without character. One set, even though I added yeast on three occasions, failed to rise; others worked splendidly. One lesson to take home here is that where there is a glimmer of success there is the promise of excellence, so I will keep baking.
Bread, however, brings the subject of natural law to mind in that both the practice of making bread and the precepts of the natural law are interconnected. That is, there are specific virtues engendered by the study and implementation of the precepts of natural law into one’s life that would not be actualised otherwise, and so it seems that a similar story can be said and is demonstrated by the baking of bread. (Incidentally, I think there are specific virtues actualised by the breaking of bread, but that is a different subject). Baking bread requires theoretical and practical knowledge; so does living a good life. One must have some knowledge, however limited, of flour, yeast, and heat in order to make some sort of bread and, before that, one must be able to conceive of the loaf beforehand. Accidents in baking do happen (I imagine the French bread is one such accident) but by and large there is a planned outcome. It is only when the design is not achieved that we are frustrated with the product (as I was yesterday!) and hence if there is no end in sight we could never truly be frustrated in our efforts. I think that this is a simple yet often overlooked principle; indeed, it is tacitly and often openly denied by those who perhaps don’t desire to do so. (The often quoted phrase, “if you aim at nothing you will certainly hit it” comes to mind). Baking has room for experimentation and play but it is also rather rigid. If one fails to respect the temperament of the yeast they will just not cooperate. If one leaves the loaf in too long then you won’t be pleased with the outcome either.
So there are basic rules or principles to baking bread that simply cannot be broken without adverse effects, and the natural law functions in pretty much the same way. There are basic principles of natural law, derived from the one, single, ultimate principle of the natural law, that if broken will lead to a frustrated life. Notice that I do not intend “frustrated” here to be equivalent or co-extensive with something akin to “damn, the Lions lost again“. No; that sort of frustration has nothing to do with an end that has not come about which is personal or intrinsically tied to the person in consideration (personal here is being used technically). Rather the frustration is such that the person will not, ultimately, be a person in the truest sense (the person will not be all that they could be-the old army slogan was a good one). There is room for some experimentation and for myriads of differences between persons, that is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, just as in the case of baking bread, there is a general way for life to be lived without there being frustration of that very endeavor. That is, too many people are ending up half-baked.