I believe that the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. When I made the transition from an art school setting to a law school setting – something that happened quite by accident – I recognized a peculiar mindset among so many lawyers-to-be, who held the view that life was comprised of a series of economic encounters, transactions between people that, when taken together, rendered a complete picture of what it is to be human. Maybe it was my art school upbringing, but I couldn’t get my head around their point of view. It seemed to me that the economic relationships, while important, were only one part of a larger and more profound whole. Those relationships supported the functions of everyday living, much as the heart, lungs, bone, and blood support the body, enabling it to work. But, at least in my mind, life — the ability to have and experience transcendent moments — the forces that causes us to leap with joy or to tremble with sorrow, this life was, and is, something more than the pieces, just as the world is something more than economics, something beyond the skeletal encounters of the everyday.
Years ago, in my more creative past, I directed some small, low budget plays in Berkeley, California. Each production I worked on came together slowly, in a way that seemed almost piecemeal at first. But, over time, a show would go from a rough concept, to a working one, until finally, with the help of designers, technicians, musicians, and actors, a unified whole would emerge, capturing the work of each participant in the body of something greater. Presented in front of an audience, this new, unified whole would in turn give way to something else again as audience and ensemble worked together toward a shared experience. The end result, the thing created, was a kind of inexplicable, shared experience. There was a glow about it, as if the energy of all these people working together was so great, it produced a light that could be felt by everyone in the theater.
I believe that, like a play, the theater of life requires the participation of many people, many events, many moving pieces. Economic transactions, the flow of currencies and the rules of engagement are not unimportant; they are merely one part of an immense and complex system support system. But the transcendent moments that punctuate the language of our lives come not from any one event or moving piece. That miraculous, something-more light only glows when pieces come together seamlessly, and create a thing beyond themselves, not unlike the memory of a salt air walk. All too often, I find, it is not the smell of the ocean, but that magical sense of the moment, that lingers with us long after we have left the beach.
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