Tuesday, June 06, 2006

it's not a small world...

I had a strange memory last night as I lay in bed letting the insomnia have its way with me. I was suddenly in the bookstore at SFSU, and I could see the white towers and sunlight falling on the cement and grass areas of the campus. When I was seventeen, more than twenty years ago, that feeling of grandeur and the inspiration that seems to be a part of youth was so prevalent. I flipped through books of history, poetry, literature. Archaeology and political science. Their pretty graphics and long-winded sentences. I loved the university. But I didn't know why, other than the fact that the world seemed so much larger when I was there. That I had room to grow. My world is, and always will be, a spacious place. I may have only traveled to Europe and Mexico, but my mind has been everywhere, and every place.
In the pages of those books I have been with quasars and on remote islands in the Pacific. I have climbed the tallest mountains and been in the deepest oceans. I have talked with great minds, and seen horrors. You can't live everything. But you can dream about everything. And that can be a bit of a trap.

I looked at the walls of my study now, filled with words, and glanced at the evidence outline on the wall. It dawned on me that the study of law was inherently practical, and that was what I've been missing for a long time. But now that I have that, the thing that I miss most is the useless.

Law is practical. People need ways to resolve conflicts fairly to reduce social tension. And this is no easy task. As much as people complain about the law and what a travesty it is, most of the time it works pretty well, and compared to most other places on the planet, it's at times a bit of a miracle. But you would have to go somewhere with no security or justice to really understand that. Evidence,for example, is an amazing interplay between logic and justice. The hearsay rule exemplifies that in a gorgeous way. We can't test the statement for veracity, so it's out. But if it falls under an exception that gives it some legitimacy, it's in. It's ethereal but practical. Nobody lies while making excited utterances. Or dying declarations.

I cannot say that I appreciate the practicality of the RAP, however. The Rule Against Perpetuities, the law students most dreaded enemy in school, is arcane, foolish, and you can't even be charged with malpractice in California for not knowing it.

It goes "no interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, within 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest".

The policy behind it makes sense. You don't want dead people controlling property for more than a hundred years. It fucks things up. The better way to do that? Say "An interest must vest within 99 years". There are statutes that do this already. So while, all this law isn't very well crafted, and serves simply to perpetuate the incompetence of public policy makers from ancient England, some of it is quiet amazing.

And that is where the useless comes in. Useless mountains. Useless books on Roman history. Useless people like teachers and astronomers. Useless music and painting. Useless poetry. Useless museums.

All the useless things in the world that make life worth living. Assuming your world isn't a small one.

And there is the beauty of having a practical profession. You appreciate all the useless things you have done in your life.


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