Big Mamma’s Joke

Big Mamma’s Joke

 

A Nuclear Holocaust and Burning to Death in Climate Warming are tricky little twins who have one ultimate goal — the extermination of the human race.  Holocaust is impatient and wants to get it done and over with.  Climate Warming, let us call him, Charboy, takes its time and gloats at the decades of human misery it will impose before it manages the final extinction of the species by roasting.  Holocaust is only accidentally kinder, and embraces torture, but not for eons.  Charboy is sadistic and loves to impose long-term inescapable suffering as it slowly burns the earth to a crisp.  These tricky twins are the progeny of the dead, the nonliving, the non-breathing — the corporations of the world that are nourished solely by profit, and, as the nonliving, they hold no respect for life in any form.

The most interesting phenomenon is that man has not only created his god in heaven but these equally invisible entities on earth, these corporations, that, in turn, have given birth to the tricky twins.  How remarkably deranged that man should have created these monsters with no soul, and no conscience, these lifeless leviathans that will sell life for dollars, health for dollars, morality for dollars, love for dollars, and, indeed, they will sell the planet itself along with every twig and tree every blooming rose and chirping bird along with all its human creators if there is offered or even imagined the most distant hope for dollars.  And in the end, we, the creators of these killer corporations to whom we have enslaved ourselves, are as helpless against our own creations as a child tied on the tracks before an oncoming, runaway train.

I say Big Mamma Up in the Sky looks down on this with disgust.  If we sit quietly and listen to the murmuring of a mountain stream we can hear what she is saying:  “Just look at these creatures called humans whom I have created in my latest experiment.  It has been a dreadful mistake.  I gave them the will to survive.  This brought on their eagerness to kill each other.  I gave them a mind to create, but they created not only beauty but invented every horror and instrument of destruction knowable in the universe.  I gave them the desire for pleasure.  But that turned into greed and prolificacy.   I gave them love, but the underside too often prevailed which is their apathy to suffering and their hatred of their fellow man.  Yes, man was a mistake.  A very bad one.   Perhaps my worst.

“But, as always, I shall have the last laugh.  With man I have no need to intercede.  These madmen will either blow themselves off the planet with nuclear bombs or burn themselves off the planet with global warming.  And their masters, those mindless corporations, unwittingly work night and day to terminate the species since corporations see a vast profusion of dollars in bombs and global pollution, all of which proves that madness and evil ultimately prevail.

“But no.  Lest I forget:  the concepts of good and evil are human creations.  Without humans there is neither good nor evil.  Without humans there is only beauty.  My intention was to design these humans to see and marvel at my works.  But with their insane destruction of their own habitat, that which is beautiful shall revert into the eternal unseen until, of course, I nominate some other creature that deserves to replace mankind, one that can fully appreciate my work.

“Ah, yes, how could I have forgotten?  I shall next try frogs.  Even now in these late times I hear them still singing.  They are bursting with such joy.  They sing all night.  They do not kill each other.  Yes, pollywogs and frogs will be my next great masterpiece.  My frogs will thrive in hot, polluted waters and radioactive slime.  Oh, how I love them!  I will give them a third eye so they can see my beauty in 3D.  Yes, of course, I have loved them all along, but their simple beauty has been overshadowed by the larger, noisy creatures.  And, yes, it is true.  I have created frogs in my own image.

“You didn’t know that?  Well, that is the best joke of all.”

 

 

REJECTION Part III

So, poor me, I was rejected as a kid when I wanted so desperately to belong to a fraternity.  I was rejected from the legal fraternity when I failed the bar.  How about when I ran for Congress, and after that, when I tried to get a job as a law professor, and later, when I wanted to become a judge and was rejected for both of these positions by the structure in power?

I have never thought about this in this way before – but all of these were, in fact, clubs:  the fraternity, a club to be sure, the congressional and academic brotherhoods, and the political club that governs the judiciary.  You did not belong to the club, Mr. Spence.  You were an outsider.  You were not to be trusted, because you did not belong and we will not have you.

The result of not belonging has given me the greatest gift – the gift of rejection which demanded that I discover ways to be useful without belonging to the club.  I began the long inquiry into the self.  Who is this person, Gerry Spence?  What, if anything does he have to offer?  If I belonged to the club, any club, that club would set its rules and standards and make its judgments – for me.

By being rejected I became acquainted with the pain of the common man who also is not a member.  I learned to care.  I learned something about enduring loneliness. I learned to speak the language of the people and to feel the pain of powerlessness.  I sought associations with those who were creative – artists of various sorts, individuals who had something to offer because they were, themselves, pariahs and had experiences in living that the club members could never have.  That included mountain climbers, tramps, social outcasts, and beautiful people who lived quiet, gentle lives and were successful mothers and fathers and knew a great deal about love.

I attribute any important successes I may have enjoyed in my life to rejection.  If I had become a frat kid I would likely have developed skills that would have led me in a different direction.  I would have enjoyed golf and golfers and would have associated with a lot of bankers and business sorts.

Had I been elected to Congress I would have been ruined as a human being.  Had I gone to the University as a professor I would have stagnated in academia, or gotten into a lot of trouble.  The Dean was wise in not hiring me.  I wouldn’t have lasted as a judge.  I would have little patience for the phony, the incompetent, the cruel.  I would not have had enough respect for precedent or for the rule of law when these came slamming up against justice as they often do.

Rejection has been the greatest of all gifts I have received.  The power structure has it own wisdom.  I would not have been a good club member.

On the other hand, the power structure freed me to take them on.  Had I been a member of the club I would never have been free to fight for certain of the causes that have defined me.  As a result of these gifts over fifteen years ago I started Trial Lawyers’ College to teach lawyers how to beat the power structure, to win against large corporations and against the enslavement and injustices of government.  I tip my hat to the power structure.  You have given me much.  I have tried to give much in return, even when it includes the chance to beat you.

 

 

Please skip the following Part II rejection which was posted by mistake.  The same post, properly edited, follows this one.

I should know better than to mess around with soft ware that is smarter than I.  A lot smarter.  There is even built-in laughter, and the damn thing is laughing at me.

Gerry

Part II Rejection.

Ah, yes, the gift of rejection.  By the time I was nineteen I finally met a pretty girl who thought I was wonderful.  What she saw in me I have yet to discover. Perhaps it was that I thought she was quite wonderful too.  But there was something else there. There always is – the need to be respected, to be accepted — even loved.  Underneath all the noise and panting and craziness of first loves  there is often something that is trying to be born, that is struggling in the pain of birth.  I suspect that was true with me.  She must have understood that.  I have written about that phenomenon in a book called, “The Making of a Country Lawyer. I entered law school and graduated magnum cum laude which was only the result of being afraid I would fail and be kicked out.  I didn’t have enough money to rent a cap and gown so I never attended the graduation ceremonies.  I was married to that wonderful girl with our first child. Then I became the first honor graduate in the history of the law school to fail the bar.  A lawyer up north in Worland, Wyoming had offered me free office space and he would send me the leavings of his practice.  You know – the divorces in cases without much of a fee, and he would send me the fender-bender automobile accident cases.  I was excited, delighted, ecstatic.  But the offer was withdrawn when I failed the bar. When I passed the bar the second try I finally got a job for $200 a month in the small town of Riverton, Wyoming.  I have written about that on this blog recently.  I lost that job when my employer became the local judge.   I had to get another job.  I’ll admit: after a grueling door to door campaign for prosecutor that took me to the Indian reservation “teepee-tapping,” and after having knocked on every door in a county nearly as big as some of our smaller states, I was, at twenty-four, elected the youngest county attorney in the history of the state.  But my successes as a politician ended there. After two terms as prosecutors I wanted to go to Washington.   I ran as a Republican.  We have all sinned.  Democrats were suspected Commies in those days.  I ran against William Henry Harrison (the President’s grandson) in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s only seat in Congress, My campaign slogan was, “Let’s be heard in Washington.”  My opponent had been in Congress for years and wasn’t a ranking member of even the least important of the many committees of Congress.  I discovered that the people of Wyoming simply didn’t want to be heard.  They wanted to be left alone.  Even though I knocked on most of the doors in this sprawling state my defeat was massive and absolute.  I did carry one precinct, namely, Bill, Wyoming.  Three votes.  Somehow I managed to get two of them. I, an utterly provincial country boy, was desperately trying to escape the provincial town of Riverton.  I had four kids by this time, and by this time I had represented insurance companies, and also held the record for the largest personal injury verdicts for ordinary people in the state.  Moreover, I’d been a prosecutor. So I argued to the Wyoming law school dean that I could teach law students all about trial work.  I was rejected out of hand.  No way.  The dean wanted some young pointy head out of a big law school who had been in a big firm for a year or two.  That would add to the standing of U.W. Law School.  We do not want you. Then maybe I could become a judge.  I asked my Republican pal, Stan Hathaway, then the governor, to appoint me to a vacancy that had just arisen in my county.  He called me to his office in Cheyenne, there to show me a pile of letters he’d received from his Riverton constituents who were more than mildly opposing any such appointment.  He turned me down.  So, soundly rejected, I quit the law. Why is rejection such a glorious gift?  Hang on for Part III.

Part II

Rejection.

 

Ah, yes, the gift of rejection.  By the time I was nineteen I finally met a pretty girl who thought I was wonderful.  What she saw in me I have yet to discover. Perhaps it was that I thought she was quite wonderful too.  But there was something else there. There always is – the need to be respected, to be accepted — even loved.  Underneath all the noise and panting and craziness of first loves  there is often something that is trying to be born, that is struggling in the pain of birth.  I suspect that was true with me.  She must have understood that.  I have written about that phenomenon in a book called, “The Making of a Country Lawyer.

I entered law school and graduated magnum cum laude which was only the result of being afraid I would fail and be kicked out.  I didn’t have enough money to rent a cap and gown so I never attended the graduation ceremonies.  I was married to that wonderful girl with our first child.

Then I became the first honor graduate in the history of the law school to fail the bar.  A lawyer up north in Worland, Wyoming had offered me free office space and he would send me the leavings of his practice.  You know – the divorces in cases without much of a fee, and he would send me the fender-bender automobile accident cases.  I was excited, delighted, ecstatic.  But the offer was withdrawn when I failed the bar.

When I passed the bar the second try I finally got a job for $200 a month in the small town of Riverton, Wyoming.  I have written about that on this blog recently.  I lost that job when my employer became the local judge.   I had to get another job.  I’ll admit: after a grueling door to door campaign for prosecutor that took me to the Indian reservation “teepee-tapping,” and after having knocked on every door in a county nearly as big as some of our smaller states, I was, at twenty-four, elected the youngest county attorney in the history of the state.  But my successes as a politician ended there.

After two terms as prosecutors I wanted to go to Washington.   I ran as a Republican.  We have all sinned.  Democrats were suspected Commies in those days.  I ran against William Henry Harrison (the President’s grandson) in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s only seat in Congress,

My campaign slogan was, “Let’s be heard in Washington.”  My opponent had been in Congress for years and wasn’t a ranking member of even the least important of the many committees of Congress.  I discovered that the people of Wyoming simply didn’t want to be heard.  They wanted to be left alone.  Even though I knocked on most of the doors in this sprawling state my defeat was massive and absolute.  I did carry one precinct, namely, Bill, Wyoming.  Three votes.  Somehow I managed to get two of them.

I, an utterly provincial country boy, was desperately trying to escape the provincial town of Riverton.  I had four kids by this time, and by this time I had represented insurance companies, and also held the record for the largest personal injury verdicts for ordinary people in the state.  Moreover, I’d been a prosecutor.

So I argued to the Wyoming law school dean that I could teach law students all about trial work.  I was rejected out of hand.  No way.  The dean wanted some young pointy head out of a big law school who had been in a big firm for a year or two.  That would add to the standing of U.W. Law School.  We do not want you.

Then maybe I could become a judge.  I asked my Republican pal, Stan Hathaway, then the governor, to appoint me to a vacancy that had just arisen in my county.  He called me to his office in Cheyenne, there to show me a pile of letters he’d received from his Riverton constituents who were more than mildly opposing any such appointment.  He turned me down.  So, soundly rejected, I quit the law.

Why is rejection such a glorious gift?  Hang on for Part III.

 

 

The Glorious Gift of Rejection.

 

Part I

 

Early on, my mother told me I was a smart aleck and that no one would come to my party if I had one.  The ditty she recited was, “Smarty, Smarty, had a party and nobody came.”

Facing such a horror I never had a party, for, indeed, I knew what my mother said was true:  I was a smart aleck.  But we all crave acceptance, and a smart aleck has only one method — to try even harder and thereby to become an even more obnoxious smart ass.  In high school I wanted to be class president, but who would want a smart aleck representing them?  No one.

I couldn’t make the football team in high school and basketball was a pretend sport for me.  The only place I could shoot hoops was in my dreams.  I did, at least, develop a sort of “look-at-me” kind of walk, and I boxed a little.  But in my second fight I got knocked out on my feet by a big Swede with a big neck and a pin head.  The only sport I was good at was talking.  I was a champion big mouth.

I thought maybe I should go to the Naval Academy at West Point – be a big time sea captain or something.  But I was slightly red-green colorblind and couldn’t see the letters in that silly spot test, and I was rejected out of hand before I even sought an appointment from some Wyoming politician I didn’t know.

I went to the University of Wyoming located, as it was, in my hometown.  You had to belong to a fraternity in those days if you amounted to anything.  The frat boys got all the girls because they had a frat pin for “pinning” one of those cute little sweethearts.  No girl wanted to be seen with a guy who had no pin to pin, who lacked that sort of social genitalia.

At that time I was working on the railroad as a brakeman and I came to my eight o’clock class covered with coal dust and wearing bib overall work clothes.  I also was a night bellhop in the local hotel.  My parents were not bankers or business people, and only kids whose parents were, or who were athletes or who were very, very nice, or who had those towering grade averages – in short, only those who might amount to something someday and thereby bolster the reputation of the fraternity got rushed in rush week.   Besides, I had pimples.

Breathlessly all during Rush Week I waited for some sign from the frat boys.  I had no phone.  My folks had moved off to Bolivia where my father worked in the tin mines.   But surely they could leave a note or something at the basement room I rented for ten dollars a month with another kid, the room, one of those with the unfinished concrete walls next to the landlady’s laundry tubs.  But no.  Nothing from the frat boys.  Ugly silence.

And worse, one had to muster a response to the interminable, unrelenting painful inquiries from one’s peers, “What frat did you pledge?”  What was one supposed to say with an arrogant shake of the head?  “I’m independent.”  And that’s what I said.  What else was there to say – that I was such a repulsive cipher that even the several lower-rung fraternities that were begging for the leftovers wouldn’t have me?

That was my early introduction to those glorious gifts of rejection.  I’ll talk more about it, that is I will be asking, is rejection something to be longed for, coveted, fought for and adored?  Well, stay tuned.

 

The Great Power of Ignorance

The Great Power of Ignorance

Some claim amazement that any lawyer could achieve national prominence after spending his first seventeen years of practice in the sticks of Wyoming – indeed, in Riverton, Wyoming, population something like five or six thousand people.  But the key to whatever success I now enjoy after nearly sixty years of practice is ignorance.

Ah, the power of ignorance!

I remember believing that if I could start a practice on my own and handle enough divorces at $150 and farm leases at $5.00 that someday I could own a small piece of land, build a modest home, and maybe even be elected to the legislature of Wyoming.

No one told me how powerless a young, inexperienced lawyer was supposed to be.  I didn’t know that big corporations, especially insurance companies, were supposed to be unbeatable.  I thought I could accomplish any goal.  My ambitions, as provincial as they were, were thankfully protected by ignorance.

I didn’t know you had to be a graduate of Yale or Harvard or Michigan or some other great university to have a shot at becoming a successful lawyer.  I didn’t even know where Yale or Harvard was.  Princeton was back East somewhere.  But where I couldn’t say.

I took on cases and attacked my opponents in court like a wild Comanche armed with only a bow and arrow.  I didn’t know you had to belong to certain clubs and golf with the bankers to get cases and to amount to something.  No one told me who to be like, because there were no great role models in Wyoming.  I thought lawyers were supposed to fight for their clients.  I thought judges were fair and honest.  I believed in the system – that there was justice for all out there if you wanted it bad enough and went after it.

I never had to make deals with the power structure because I didn’t understand their power.  They were afraid of me, because I was ignorant of their power, and powered with an innocent appreciation of my own.  No one is more powerful than the kid in the trenches who has no understanding of pain or death.  That’s why we send young men to war.

I remember the old boy from our largest city, the preeminent insurance lawyer in Wyoming, and, of course, Wyoming’s representative to the American Bar Association.  He wanted us to give twenty-five dollars each to help the national bar establish an advertising program for lawyers – to give us a better image he said.  That was nearly sixty years ago.  I got up in the county meeting of about five lawyers and ignorantly asked, “If we want to be seen better, why don’t we do better?”  That was real ignorance.

My opponents always thought I was brave.  But I was ignorant of the consequences of losing.  I won because I was innocent – a better word.  But if one is ignorant of what They can do to one, one has an indomitable power over them.  Their greatest power against the people, yes, against those who fight for the people, is Fear.  Fear is the controlling power of every society.  It is the foundation of religion.  You had better conform, you had better give away whatever power you have, or bad things will happen to you.   But I didn’t understand that rule.

I am put in mind of my nephew when he was about twelve and playing Little League baseball.  It was the last inning in the championship game – his team was two down, the other team was ahead by three, and when my nephew stepped up to bat the bases were loaded.  He hit a homer and won the game.  I said, “I bet you were afraid, weren’t you?  The whole game rested in your hands.”

“No,” he said.  “They were in trouble.”

The power of ignorance frees one of fear, frees one to rely on one’s native talents undiluted by the message of the power structure that one is a meaningless digit who can become successful only if one submits and follows the dictates of power.

I like to tell lawyers, and any others who will listen, that they are perfect – and their perfection is powerful.  We are each unique.  No one lives or has ever lived or will live in the future who is exactly like me, or like you.  This means one cannot be compared, because there is no one to compare one to.

But we have been educated otherwise.  We have been convinced from an early age that we are lacking in some way.  We are not as bright as our brother, or sister.  We are told by our teachers that we are not as talented as the others in the class so we are given lower marks.  But always, the greats of the species have somehow been ultimately saved from the debilitating judgments of others.

The lawyer I fear most is the young advocate, man or woman, who does not know that I am a more accomplished lawyer.  I fear an opponent who is protected by ignorance and who, therefore, is free to beat me.  I am afraid of those kind because of the great power of their ignorance that protects them and unleashes their own indomitable power.

Ah, the power of ignorance!