I am currently reading the novel A Thousand Acres (1991), by Jane Smiley. This is essentially a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s King Lear involving a father’s disinheritance of a daughter from the family farm (a 1,000 acre farm) and the destructive effects of deeply rooted, and long denied, family issues. This novel also is a powerful depiction of estate planning discord. [There are certain tragic elements in the novel that I fortunately do not see often in estate disputes.]
One line in this novel notably jumped out at me the other evening. It refers to one of the farmer-neighbors named Harold who, often to the humorous and bemused talk of the other neighbors, marches to the beat of his own drummer, but who also is one of the most successful farmers in the community:
Here is the line referring to Harold:
It’s just that he’s [Harold] cannier and smarter than he lets on, and in the slippage between what he looks like and what he is, there’s a lot of freedom.
This line is powerful. In contrast to Harold, many people are much too concerned about what others think about them. These people stifle their own freedom.
A tie between the above line and this blog post is that my great joy in lawyering is helping clients respond to the currents of life from a position of strength, power, and independence. Independence particularly in terms of having control over their lives, including preventing legal issues, disputes, litigation, not bowing easily to the expectations or judgment of others, and avoiding the time- and emotionally-draining interference and overreach by others.
In one of my earlier blog posts, captioned “Helping Clients Have Power; Blog Post 2 of 3” (click here for this earlier post), I referred to two of the saddest characters in literature: Willy Loman in the play Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller) and George Babbitt in the novel Babbitt (Sinclair Lewis). Each of these characters demonstrates so powerfully the sad, unhappy mistake of maintaining such a persistent, engulfing concern about what others think about them. The complete antithesis of power.
Finally, one ancillary legal point. Liberty is the environment that (fortunately) allows us to be free; Actually exercising our freedom in the above context is our own responsibility.