How do we put Light and Wisdom into practice? How do we make Light a Verb? One way is through our work. As Thomas Aquinas puts it, “to live well is to work well, or display a good activity.”
One of the programs of PISLAP, the movement to reform the legal profession, is called the Georgia Justice Project. In a thoughtful article entitled “Transformational Criminal Defense Practices: Truth, Love, and Individual Rights—the Innovative Approach of the Georgia Justice Project” published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, authors Douglas Ammar and Tosha Downey deepen our understanding of the GJP project.
The title of the article says a lot. When was the last time we heard lawyers putting “truth, justice” and a critique of individualism out front? This suggests a new breed of lawyers is emerging and Peter Gabel, grounded in the values of Rabbi Heschel and Tikkun magazine, is among the leaders of this movement.
Ammar and Downey recognize a “cynicism and alienation [that is] deeply embedded in” their fellow attorneys. They urge
…a new paradigm of lawyering. One that harkens to why most of us went to law school in the first place: To help folks, to do justice, to heal the brokenness of the world. This redemptive vision is often inadvertently limited by a fierce devotion to the mechanisms within the practice of law. We know that love and truth can change the world. But how can we do this? How can we do this as lawyers?*
Solid questions for all workers in all our professions.
One method they utilize is to sponsor regular dinners with clients past and present and their families that foster long-term supportive relationships.
The authors ask probing questions about the current state of academia: “What got lost in the years of law school?”
Engineers tell me they lost their soul teaching in academia; medical schools are hiring clergy to pace the dorm halls of first-year med students because these young and once idealistic doctors-to-be are contemplating suicide.
Yes, suicide in the first year of medical school! “What gets lost in the years of medical training? Training of engineers? Training of clergy too?”
An education without a deepening of spirituality and consciousness, the “inner work” that Schumacher talked of in our previous meditation, is anti-humanity. It kills the soul.
As Meister Eckhart so notably put it:
The outward work can never be small if the inward one is great, and the outward work can never be great or good if the inward is small or of little worth. The inward work always includes in itself all size, all breadth and all length.
Maybe law students—and other students—should be studying the mystics (as well as Aristotle).
*Fordham Urban Law Journal, November, 2003, p. 64. https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ulj/vol31/iss1/3.
See also: www.spiritlawpolitics.org.
See Matthew Fox, Reinvention of Work, pp. 1, 58.
Banner Image: “Lady Justice Statue.” Image by vaXzine on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
What lessons are you learning from Peter Gabel’s work in reinventing his profession? How can you apply it to your own work world?
Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”