Right Scholarship and the Goddesses of Commercial Law

By Martin, Nathalie | Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Right Scholarship and the Goddesses of Commercial Law


Martin, Nathalie, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law


INTRODUCTION

Sometimes scholarship is just scholarship. I am referring to the type of scholarship that is often written but barely read, the type written to impress someone or get a promotion rather than because there is a burning need or desire to say what needs to be said. Other times, scholarship flows from the heart, as a result of desire to share a discovery that could change the law, or to share a thought or series of thoughts that could change the world. I call this scholarship of the heart "right scholarship," a phrase taken from the Buddhist concept of right livelihood. Right scholarship reflects real passions and concerns of the heart that permeate its author's existence on an almost cellular level. This Essay examines examples of right scholarship in works of two commercial law "goddesses": Jean Braucher and Elizabeth Warren. (1)

This Essay combines many topics about which I am deeply passionate, including religion, sex, yoga philosophy, and the influential works of two women I admire greatly. Hopefully, this brief Essay does not try to do too much at the expense of all of these topics. (2) In Part I of this Essay, I describe the concept of right scholarship through various religious traditions and yoga philosophy's principles for living known as theyamas. I then describe, through the works of young scholar Shari Motro, scholarship that has gone wrong. Finally, through the psychological concept of flow, I describe how we know when scholarship has gone right. In Part II, I provide some background information and brief excerpts from right scholarship written by the commercial law goddesses, both of whom were intensely passionate about their work. Their work is scholarship from the heart that has changed the world.

I conclude this Essay with a few thoughts on what the rest of us legal scholars can take away from the work of the goddesses. One such takeaway is that we should not waste our valuable time. Every breath (and every word) counts. Though much legal scholarship makes little difference to the world, when we find our passion, we can make a difference. Using passages from the work of the goddesses as our muse, we can each find passion, flow, and meaning, and can develop the deep optimism that comes from believing legal scholarship can make a difference in the world.

I. What is Right Scholarship?

I wonder how different the world would be if legal scholars lived by the following mantra: (3) I will never again write about something I do not care about deeply.

I also wonder what it would take for each of us to keep this promise, to ourselves, our schools, our students, and society. If we each took this mantra seriously, what would change for us and for others? How would our collective impact on the world change? How would our service to the world be enhanced? Finally, how fundamentally would our lives be enriched if we spent the time and effort to find out what we are passionate about?

There are additional questions embedded in these initial questions. On a micro or individual level, those questions include: "How will each of us make the difference we'd like to make in the scholarly arena during the rest of our careers? How will we each choose what to write about?" On a more macro level, these questions include: "What is the future of legal scholarship? How will legal scholarship stay relevant in the modern world?" (4) Combining these inquiries, we can each ask how we can individually stay relevant not for the sake of fame but to help answer the eternal question: "What am I doing here on this earth? What is my purpose?"

There is a concept in every major religious tradition in the world suggesting that we should use our limited time on this earth to do something meaningful and helpful. Indeed, most of us wish to make a difference in the world, and of course to do no harm. If possible, most of us wish to leave the world a better place than we found it. …

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