Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom!

My e-mail inbox demonstrates that lawyers all around me were back at work, full throttle, shortly after the curtain fell on Christmas Day.
One thing I love about lawyers is their appetite for work. Most of the good ones enjoy working really, really hard. And virtually anyone who becomes a lawyer made a habit of striving shortly after learning to stand upright. This skill was ultimately tested in law school and is continuously honed in the work place. Occasionally, workaholic lawyers can even proceed with little respite for decades without driving everyone else in their lives bat-shit crazy.
I have written before about how loving one’s work seems to be a good antidote to growing old. And Shakespeare has said all kinds of things about how quality work is a means to conquer death itself. Work, particularly a m├ętier, gives days much-needed structure. I for one quickly tire of truly formless vacation days. I love vacations that give me a chance to either have adventures or get lots of WORK done that I cannot otherwise get to because other, less appealing work keeps getting in the way.
One character who really hates the work that fills his days is Caliban of The Tempest. As soon as his master is out of sight, Caliban curses his man “Prosper” (aka “Prospero”) with relish: “All the infections that the sun sucks up/ From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall and make him/ By inch-meal a disease!” On one hand, who can blame Caliban? The poor guy was turned into a virtual slave on his own island after he had the audacity to try to molest Prospero’s young daughter, Miranda. On the other hand, even when Caliban fantasizes about rebelling, all he can think to do is pledge himself to serve a “new master” the drunkard, Stephano, who “bears celestial liquor.” That is, even the oppressed Caliban longs not for leisure untethered to any work but for work that will permit him to enjoy his leisure:

I'll show thee the best springs; I'll pluck thee berries;
I'll fish for thee and get thee wood enough.
A plague upon the tyrant that I serve!
I'll bear him no more sticks, but follow thee,
Thou wondrous man.  . . .
I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts;
Show thee a jay's nest and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset; I'll bring thee
To clustering filberts and sometimes I'll get thee
Young scamels from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?

There is some lesson here for those whose work involves motivating others to work on one’s behalf. The trick can’t just be ensuring that the wine flows freely. (Although, at times, such stratagems probably have some efficacy. . . .) Inspiring others to want to plunge into work, all the while singing “Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom!” as Caliban does—well, that requires convincing them that their work furthers some higher cause. Not just the quest for filthy lucre. Or the routine impulse to propound interrogatories.

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