Poets and writers often work unseen, shuttered away in rooms and silences so wide and clear that to speak in this kind of silence one must have the courage to listen to oneself. Visual artists celebrate the light and solitude of their studios, the being alone with one’s self in the world. There may be art on the writing room walls or music playing in the studios, but there is rarely conversation. Unseen and unheard, artists and writers are free alone to devolve everything they are into the work they make.
Law more often proceeds in formal spaces filled with art, carpets, and ceremonial gestures where language moves between people, much as it does in conversation. Law, though, imposes a structure on its dialogue, an exchange of questions and answers that mirrors the form of legal reasoning and the internal dialogue seen throughout appellate cases. In courtrooms and classrooms, the language of law defines a geography where arguments and strategies about hierarchies, authority and legal categories displace concerns with justice and caring, social context and ethical dilemmas. Sadly and too often, the messy details of law’s human stories go unseen and unheard.
For more information about Justice Kirby’s Donahue Lecture (which served as the basis for this discussion) please click here.