Sunday, January 7, 2007

Power of words and advocacy

Parts of this article will appear in 'Why Lawyers Should Surf'' (co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest) which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Extracts from the book can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

The beauty of nature and its wild gifts touches the soul of anyone who paddles out into the surf. It can take that person to another dimension. To a deeper knowledge both of himself and perhaps of something greater. However grand it might sound, words and advocacy can have the ability to inspire us in such a way. To bring out the very best in ourselves. It is something we lawyers often forget. It is not just about winning arguments, persuading, cajoling. It is about something far greater. A bridge between two people’s minds, a means of communicating thoughts which otherwise might be trapped in the imagination. They are a means of bringing us together.

Roger Payne, one of the world’s leading whale specialists and the man who recorded the whale songs which were sent out into open space in the Voyager mission understands the importance of words to human life. He goes as far as to say that the story of Moby Dick conjured so powerful an image that it might go so far as to save the whole of humanity by inspiring them to respect the natural world around them and therefore avert an environmental catastrophe. He said in Among Whales:

“I have wondered whether the genius of Melville’s book isn’t that he knew just how and by what steps whales would enter our minds, and how once inside they would metastasize and diffuse throughout the whole engine of human ingenuity, mastering and predisposing it to their purpose…that whales would reconstitute themselves, reintegrate at the point of origin of all the meridians of the imagination, its very pole, and there tie themselves forever into human consciousness by a kind of zenith knot…that when this process had completed itself the whale as symbol would have become the whale as puppeteer—would start orchestrating and manipulating, and directing the connections people perceive between themselves and the beating heart of nature…that whales can help humanity save itself—help us to make the transition from Save the Whales to Saved by the Whales.”

So, do as surfers do when they are sitting out the back waiting for the swell to roll in. Look to the horizon. Know your place in the natural world and harness the forces around you.

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