Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jeremiah May Have Been a Bullfrog, But Gandhi Was a Lawyer

Yes, Mahatma Gandhi was trained and experienced as an English Barrister. Early in his career, he traveled to South Africa and experienced first-hand the legally imposed descriminations against Indian and Muslim people. The rest is history. Gandhi's skills as a lawyer were an important part of the tremendous eloquence, discipline and intensity he brought to bear upon unsuspecting government officials.

There are stereotypes about Lawyers that seem to discourage people in the legal profession as well as young people considering a future in law. For those of us in the field of law, many feel that conformity and peer pressure excuse us from claiming our destiny to make a difference in the lives of our people. However, the exceptions, like Gandhi, Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, for example, are of epic proportions. Gandhi was a barrister and a highly evolved thinker, writer and activist. Many lawyers work for change (although not all of it is altruistic.) Lawyers are trained in the theory and practice of both change and non-change; both rigid thinking and openmindedness.

Some people believe that the work and role of lawyers derive from the tradition of the shaman, the holder of powerful words, and that there remains great positive power in the role of attorney. I am currently a healing bodyworker and writer, but my years in legal work were very gratifying and cutting edge. Rather than perpetuate prejudice against lawyers, let's be open to progress with social justice through stronger focus on the spirit of the law, rather than mechanistic application of laws designed to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

In the meantime, let's revel in the diversity and creativity of lawyers whose lives bring other careers and/or spiritual practices into the mix. Some famous law school graduates who are best known for other endeavors:

  • Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Philosopher and Political Reformer
  • James Boswell (1740-1795) Biographer of Samuel Johnson
  • Francis Bacon (1561-1626) British Philosopher
  • Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) Statesman, Saint
  • Rene Descartes (1596-1650) Philosopher, Scientist
  • Cicero (106 BCE - 43 BCE) Roman Philosopher, Statesman
  • Patrick Henry (1736-1799) Statesman, American Revolutionary
  • Noah Webster (1758-1843) Political Writer, Lexicographer
  • A total of 25 US Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln
  • Jeremy Bentham (1749-1932) Social Philosopher
  • Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) Historian, Social Philosopher
  • Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) Novelist, Poet
  • Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Author
  • Washington Irving (1783-1859) Short Story Author, Essayist
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905) Science Fiction Author
  • Studs Terkel (1912 - ) Author, Historian
  • Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) Author of Detective Stories
  • Robert Traver (1903-1991) Author, "Anatomy of a Murder"
  • John Grisham (1955 - ) NovelistScott Turow (1949 - ) Author
  • Louis Auchincloss (1917 - ) Novelist, Historian
  • Daniel Boorstin (1914-2004) Historian, Writer
  • Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Novelist, Poet
  • John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895) Outlaw and Gunfighter
  • Marcus L. Urann ( 1873-1963) Inventor of cranberry sauce, founded Phi Kappa Phi
  • Chester Carlson (1906-1968) Inventor of xerography
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton (1947 - ) Politician, Author
  • Bella Abzug (1920-1998) Activist and Politician
  • Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) Politician and Writer
  • Alice Paul (1885-1977) Suffragist and Author of Equal Rights Amendment
  • Carol Mosely Braun (1947 - ) Politician
  • Ann Coulter (1961 - ) Author, political commentator
  • Conde Nast (1873-1942) early Publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue
  • Mortimer Zuckerman (1937 - ) Publisher of US News & World Report
  • Sam Houston (1793-1863) Statesman, Soldier and Politician
  • J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) FBI Director
  • Ralph Nader (1934 - ) Consumer Advocate and Political Activist
  • Catharine A. MacKinnon (1946 - ) Feminist, Legal Philosopher
  • John Cleese (1939 - ) Comedic Actor, Writer, co-founder of Monty Python
  • Paul Robeson (1898- 1976) Author, Athlete, Singer/Performer, Civil Rights Activist
  • Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981) Songwriter, Pianist and Bandleader
  • Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) Author, composer of "Star Spangled Banner"
  • Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Composer
  • Julio Iglesias (1943 - ) Singer
  • Kay Kyser (1905-1985) "Big Band" Leader, Radio Celebrity
  • Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Artist
  • Otto Preminger (1906-1986) Actor, Movie Director
  • Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) Poet, author of "Desiderata"
  • Tony La Russa (1944 - ) Baseball Manager
  • Steve Young (1961 - ) Pro Football Quarterback
  • Pat Haden (1953 - ) Pro Football Quarterback
  • Dick Button (1929 - ) Champion Figure Skater and Sports Commentator
  • Howard Cosell (1918-1995) Sports Commentator
  • Mel Allen (1913-1996) Sports Announcer
  • Jerry Springer (1944 - ) Television Personality, Politician
  • Star Jones (1962 - ) Television Personality
  • Charlie Rose (1942 - ) Television Journalist, Interviewer
  • Ben Stein (1944 - ) Author, Television Personality, Game Show Host
  • Geraldo Rivera (1943 - ) Television Journalist/Personality
  • Fred Dalton Thompson (1942 - ) Politician, Actor
  • Fidel Castro (1926 - ?) Cuban Leader
  • Rossano Brazzi (1916-1994) Actor
  • Horace McMahon (1906-1971) Actor - Stage, Film and Television

Major source: you are aware of other famous people who are also lawyers, but known for something other than the practice of law, please let me know and I'll add them to this list.

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Meenakshi said...

Earon, this is quite an amazing blog for the originality and depth of thinking.
The words that I feel are central to it are : "As long as we see ourselves as divine beings of light, we will act as if the planet is here to serve us. In that case, our human nature will generally have us dazzled by short term gain and paying little attention to long term problems we may be creating, whether that is environmental degradation, global warming, rising sea levels or war. However, if we see ourselves as a species of primates, we may be better able to perceive our massive shortcomings as stewards of the Earth."

I think this is an important contemporary issue; as human beings are beginning to assess their role on earth.

A little thought though: perhaps even those who feel they are beings of light can begin to see earth as another being of light that requires compassion as much as the next person?

Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, LCMT said...

Many thanks for the comments, Meenakshi. And I do agree that "beings of light" can certainly help lead positive actions and changes.

It all just gets confusing to us ordinary folks. That's why I chose the title - "Divine Primates." There is a balance we need to find between our divine and primate selves, and I think that we are skewed way over towards the Divine perspective at this time.

Seeing ourselves as divine beings may help us to respect others, and the earth, but it may also stimulate the ego excessively. Krishnamurti taught this. A great number of the "divine beings of light" I know are so infatuated with their consciousness (enlightenment) that they really do not do much volunteer work and feel far above mundane things like voting and getting involved with social justice issues in their communities. Not everyone needs to be activist, but among the "divine beings of light" I know there is little tolerance for the angst and anxiety involved with getting involved with doing something to make the world a better place. It seems that this "negativity" is very painful and to be avoided. Gandhi was a great example of activism, although he is constantly cited as if he were a passive man, which he was certainly not. Nor was Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. They did not spend all of their energy on metaphysics, but on organizing and working for change. Both placed themselves at great risk every day for their principles and aspirations.

Bottom line: I don't see my writing as absolute truth, but rather a perspective whose lack of presence in our current debates may be part of what is keeping us from taking the action necessary to live sustainably. Today, everyone is upset about gasoline prices and is just beginning to consider the possibility that they may need to make major changes in order to live more sustainably. However, if the price of gasoline dropped down to $3 a gallon, that willingness to sacrifice would probably evaporate in a heartbeat.

Our "solutions" to our energy crises are often what is wreaking havoc on our environment. Wars are a disastrous tactic. Expanded corn production for ethanol is probably raising food prices around the world. The high prices of gasoline are actually reducing our oil consumption, which is good - but the people want more oil drilling to feed their driving habits and consumerism - which would be bad.

Let's all be intelligent consumers willing to make lifestyle sacrifices in order to live sustainably - to live more simply so that our childrens' and grandchildrens' generations can simply live.

We don't need to be divine beings of light in order to be rational beings. But we do need to stop waiting for miracles to save us from our addictions. There are powerful institutions on this planet who fight in favor of consumerism and instigate terrible waste and consumption. There are powerful institutions who work feverishly against population control and who work to increase the populations of their religious followers even by manipulation and coercion. Who am I to say that these institutions are less divine than any others - unless I am willing to hold everyone to a higher standard than divinity - a standard of rationality and responsibility?