By Gordon Robinson
Life is just for learning. Every fellow traveller on this mortal toil is a potential learning source. The most important and complex lesson we're here to learn is who we really are. That lesson isn't available in any academic institution or tool. Only experience teaches that lesson.
Gradually, we learn we're superior to no one; we're all pieces of the same original puzzle scattered on this earth; and, eventually, we'll all come together to remake that puzzle whole. Then we'll all know who we really are.
Meanwhile, we should practise coming together here. There's no greater pleasure or learning experience than the coming together of a helping hand and a life lesson. Living on an island built by narcissism can produce illusions of grandeur but ends in loneliness, unhappiness and ignorance.
Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly.
He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller.
He got hair down to his knee.
Got to be a joker he just do what he please.
Life's school contains only students; no friends, no enemies. Those are man-made labels. God made all in His/Her image. So, to learn who we really are, we must look beyond individual facades.
He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football.
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola.
He say, 'I know you, you know me.'
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free.
Come together right now over me.
John Lennon learned how to keep on the right side of instant karma.
Against the odds
In my career as an attorney-at-law, some of my best and most faithful clients started out opponents. Thirty years ago, my firm represented a business who built flood-lit tennis courts up against its neighbour's property in breach of its title's restrictive covenants. This gave the neighbour and its guests what my late, lamented father used to call "a key soak time". So, the neighbour sued and, as most junior, I was handed the obvious loser.
I've often tried to explain (without success) to young lawyers two governing principles of the practice of law, neither of which is taught at law school. First, the least important factor in the practice of law is law. Law doesn't hide, and all know how to find it. What'll separate you from throngs of overeducated robots is your ability to solve problems.
Second, throw away the textbook. Textbooks are the first resort of the lazy and incompetent. They contain authors' dated opinion of their jurisdiction's law. Better to start by finding solutions to your clients' problems then seeking support in law for the solutions. If there's no support, change the law. It's been done.
I realised my client's problem was how to retain its tennis courts. The covenants needed to disappear. So I set about attacking the covenants' validity and, hey, presto, it turned out they weren't properly imposed. No need to argue endlessly about esoteric concepts like 'touching and concerning'; or 'demesne'. The judgment was upheld despite appeals to the Privy Council.
Soon I was invited to become my opponent's lawyer. Since then, I've learned more about its industry and related activities (e.g. construction) than appears in any book and all because an illusory 'enemy' recognised the beneficial possibilities of dismantling illusion.
The charlton years
In 1989, Danny Melville invited me to represent Racing Promotions Limited. Then, bookies owed huge 'rights fees', amounts considered uncollectible because the contracting party was the nebulous Jamaica Bookmakers' Association. I decided to sue each bookmaker personally, obtained judgment despite strong opposition, and sent a trusted bailiff to seize cars belonging to the bookmakers' leader, the then mayor of Mandeville.
The outstanding fees were immediately paid and I was visited by the legendary Cecil Charlton. He said he couldn't hire me as the bookmakers' lawyer (conflict of interest), but he wanted me as his personal lawyer, a position I held for more than 10 years, even during a massive bookmakers' strike led by the said same Cecil Charlton in protest against actions I'd taken as Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission chairman (for my sins, I was so appointed in the 1990s).
Cecil organised placard-marching bookies; appeared on radio talk shows blasting me for my high-handed attitude; all the while calling me for daily personal advice. He named one of his horses Peace and Love in my honour. I learned more life lessons from that man (who never received a formal education) than from any other human being. Rest in peace, my friend.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.