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Transcending anger and roles to persuade on the soul level

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A dog does not betray anyone. Humans have the ability to betray, and too many people betray others. A dog does not form sinister plans, but too many humans do. A dog does not lie; too many humans do. Maybe that helps explain why so many people like having dogs; I have never had a dog.

A dog, of course, can go on the fierce attack against strangers. A dog once bit me on the shin unprovoked. Luckily I was wearing blue jeans. Another dog one day ran angrily over to me when I was taking a run, and put a few holes in my sweats with his claws before his companion human successfully called him off of me. Curiously, no dogs have hassled me since I was fourteen.

I have stepped in my share of dog poop, which is so hard to get off running shoes that my father would ask running shoe salespeople about running shoes that were good at not picking up too much dog poop. And he was serious in his inquiry, as I laughed my head off.

There we have it: too many humans who betray and hatch lying and sinister paths, and too many dogs who attack unprovoked and leave stinky poop in our paths that won’t easily come off our shoes. And that is not to mention the bird that pooped on my necktie, as I wore it.

Those same people can ultimately be encouraged to do the right thing, if not in this lifetime perhaps in a future lifetime if we indeed have future lifetimes. The attacking dog might be as loving as anything to its companion humans, but attacking when fearful of a strange human or feeling protective of its companion human. As to the bird, as long as humans and birds live in the same geographic area, birds will poop on them.

The best way to address the foregoing obstacles is to do it with as much grace as the milk farmer I visited, who got cow poop flung on his eye by a cow, wiped it off with his handkerchief, and moved onto the next cow.

Trial lawyers and dairy farmers both experience sh*t. Perhaps it is too trite to envision the sh*t as fertilizer for good things. Perhaps the sh*t is better viewed as something to be neutralized, disinfected, dwarfed, or, when necessary, flung back into the thrower’s mouth. I like seeing the sh*t more as a balloon to deflate.

The sh*t trial lawyers deal with is nothing compared to what soldiers face on the battlefield, including boobytraps, landmines, hand grenades, missiles, bombs, fire, and a whole host of other maim-, torture-, and death-risking circumstances. And when a soldier is captured, the physical and psychological torture can be about to begin if the capturing fighters do not follow the international law against war crimes.

I know a personal injury defense lawyer against whom I dealt peripherally on a case, too peripherally to know how upstanding or not he is in dealing with opponents. I found him likable. We would chat about some of our mutual leisure interests; he was more interesting than plenty of my opponents. Then one day, I mentioned a lawyer who flat-out volunteered to me that he will sometimes note a hearing date to an opposing lawyer for the purpose of wearing down the opposing lawyer. When I jokingly asked my opposing lawyer whether he would do the same thing. He jokingly said no, as if he would.

As I say to my staff, I am not being paranoid to say we never know how much we can trust people outside of our firm. That does not mean to walk around everywhere with full body armor. That does mean to expect that at least some people outside our law firm — beyond my fellow criminal defense lawyer friends and other confidantes — will try to figure out how to use information from our firm to their sinister advantage.

Even with the foregoing realizations, I can still go through my day being persuasively open, joyful, and battle-ready. Just as I do not freeze up out of fear of being hit by another car on the road because it is second nature for me to know basic safety precautions, I can persuasively enjoy myself in the courtrooms and courthouse hallways while still taking the right safety and offensive precautions.

When I am driven by the path to victory rather than the path of fear and anger (which is rooted in fear),  I am all the closer to victory.

Yet who never gets angry? One of my key spiritual teachers, a Buddhist nun, told me she still sometimes gets angry after all these decades of peaceful practice. Asked if he ever feels angry or outraged, the Dalai Lama replied: "Oh, yes, of course. I’m a human being. Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain. [Laughs.]"

My teacher Ram Dass, after returning to India after having achieved new spiritual heights on his first visit there with his guru, got so angry one day that he threw a plate of food that was offered to him. His teacher Neem Karoli Baba told him then and there: “Ram Dass, love everyone and tell the truth.” Ram Dass says that his teacher "was telling me to take a different path and become a soul. What he was saying is that when I can relate from that soul plane of consciousness, which is who I really am, I will love everyone. That is my truth. It’s only taken me forty years to figure it out."

There we have it, two great monastics who still get angry, and Ram Dass who took forty years to apply relating to others from "that soul plane of consciousness." Nobody ever said this will be easy.

My devotion to and insistence on winning precludes me from becoming angry. Anger weakens and gives the other side an advantage over me. I will not allow my opponents that advantage.

The idea here is not to accept an opponent’s bows and arrows — nor a prosecutor in robes’ dangerous actions or inactions — with an inane grin or with tucking my tail between my legs, but to always apply the taijiquan approach of finding calm in the eye of the storm and being at zero, and to not beat up on myself when I learn I have let my guard down improvidently. I must learn from my mis-steps while still proceeding towards victory. The opponent who sees that I do not knee-jerk react to every trespass will be more scared and weakened than if I did the opposite. The hurricane, tornado, and tidalwave are no less powerful by taking their time to strike at the right time, rather than to react for reaction’s
sake. My goal as a criminal defense lawyer is to do my best to harmonize my clients’ imbalanced situations, and not to let myself be sucked into personality conflicts nor anger with prosecutors, opposing witnesses, and judges.