Law in Contemporary Society


-- By AbbyCoster - 09 May 2012

There’s nothing he loves more than motors. Any kind, really. Cars, planes, my Dad’s rusty John Deere. When he was just a toddler-albeit one with crippling dyslexia-he could pinpoint the model and year of any car by merely eyeing its wheels.

One Sunday afternoon in the fall of 2008, my brother Will, 14 at the time, and his best friend Sam, a neighbor and de facto brother, were riding their dirtbikes on the familiar town path, their own religious ritual of sorts. Sam pulled ahead. Moments later, Will found him sprawled at the foot of a foreign chain blocking the path, his head nearly severed from the impact. He sprinted to the nearest house and called an ambulance, but it was too late.

I feared my brother would no longer have the courage to maintain his passion, but he has proven me wrong.

We live in a sleepy Southern town, complete with town hall, general store, and ice cream parlor; it’s all very Peyton Place. The tragedy-particularly in light of its sticky politics, pitting the town’s elite against it’s poor-became a sensation. My brother had lost a lifelong friend, yet for months people would incessantly ask, “What was it like when you found him?” “Was the chain really never up before?” “Why do you kids insist on riding those fucking things? One of you was bound to get hurt at some point.” As a legal battle waged on, he clemently attended countless depositions and complied with unsympathetic attorneys and ruthless reporters, perpetual reminders of the accident. But most remarkably, he continued to ride his dirtbike, every single Sunday.

Will’s stoicism has continued to be tested. He was born with a severe form of dyslexia, almost eradicating his ability to read and write; he’s now 18 and still needs help reading restaurant menus and Christmas cards. School counselors often suggested “vocational or trade school,” or entering the police force, seemingly embarrassing, even blasphemous, proposals in a family full of Ivy League graduates and accomplished professionals. Will, however, was never fazed, but accepted his disability without a shred of self-sympathy.

Someday, I hope I have that same courage.

The Beaten Path

I’ve always been one to “play by the books,” as they say. In high school, I took IB classes, because, despite all of the bullshitting they entailed, that would get me into a good school. I entered college with dreams of majoring in French or architecture. Alas, I was steered by innate practicality-gutlessness, really-instead majoring in finance, which had high job placement rates. I spent a few years mastering the intricacies of, as Eben fittingly dubbed it, “Microbrain” Excel, assured that my future would be well-served by my ability to model call option payouts without even touching the mouse. Once again, upon graduation I convinced myself to ignore my innermost desires, and even my parents’ urgings, to “take a few years off to be young, move out to Colorado and figure it all out.” I couldn’t even fathom doing such a brainless thing, especially with my classmates’ “impressive” plans to spend two-years chained to cubicles in the mighty capitalist towers of Morgan Stanley or Barclays. So, I spent a year calculating pricing margins to maximize the profits of a company that sells $800 picture frames and $200,000 purses. (No typo, promise.) It’s not what I wanted, but it just made sense.

His Own Path

My brother is not hindered by this constant need to toe the line, to do what seems the most sensible. Whereas he crafts his own fate, I, quite contrarily, have a long history of being hemmed in by my “Type A” personality. It’s not that I have a need to please others, but rather am poisoned with a fear of risk; I’m afraid that in taking a leap and defying logic, I’ll let myself down. Will has no such fear. Instead, his bravery affords him the freedom to forge his own path--one without any chains to crush him.

His friend’s death didn’t make Will shy away from his passions. He still rides his dirtbike on that same path, despite the nightmare of his past and the constant reminders that “it could happen to you.”

Will’s ability to overcome his disability is possibly even more courageous than the strength he has shown in the wake of his friend’s death. He’s markedly happy with himself. Rather than tune out his problems, he candidly accepts the hand he was dealt. Recently, he jocundly, without the slightest tinge of regret or shame, stated, “I’m just not as smart as you. I wanted to go to Virginia Tech but I knew I wouldn’t get in! It’s fine, though, college is college.” He’s off to a small liberal arts school in southern Virginia this fall, and I know he won’t let anything get in his way. He never does.

My Future Path

Will may be five years my junior, but he is staggeringly braver. I plan to use him as my guide and emulate his courage so that I am not beholden to the clean and straightforward, yet boring road that will inevitably fall at my feet within the next two years. My brother’s valor shows me that I too can stray from the beaten path and do what I want. I’m not going to pawn my license, just as Will hasn’t pawned away his spirit.

His ability to still ride his dirtbikes every week on that same path, with that same chain- now discernibly surrounded by cones and “no trespassing” signs-has never ceased to confound me. Yet, as always guided by my inherent decorum, I was afraid to bring up a sore subject. Just last week, while out for a drive, I finally asked him how he does it. The answer was simple. “I just love it.” Then he paused for a second. “Plus, I know that’s what Sam would want. Hey, can you pull over at 7-11? I want a Slurpee.”

(Words: 995)

(Eben, I would like to continue editing after the semester is over.)

You should work on the other draft, Abby. Maybe do something new, too. But you don't need to continue editing this. It works, doing what it does perfectly. It establishes a moment in life—for you, and for Will. Other things will change, but it doesn't need to change. This is how it was for you, now, at the end of the first year of law school, as you thought about the past, the future, and the meaning presently established in a relationship that's so very important to you. Like any other snapshot, how you look in it will change, for you, as you change through the remainder of life. But you did what clarity of self-examination unsparingly written with simple elegance can do.

Of course, you could take one pass through and polish off some stray imperfections. You don't need the last sentence before "The Beaten Path." You don't need to split the infinitive in "His ability to still ride." You could look a little harder at the full content of the fear that "poisons" you, when you consider "taking a leap and defying logic." I think it's about more than "letting [yourself] down." But I wouldn't. I'd let life go on a while, then look back at this, and consider what the next essay taking stock would say.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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r3 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:09:44 - IanSullivan
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