Excellence Reporter: J. Kim, what is the meaning of life?
J. Kim Wright: I believe the Meaning of Life is not static; it is dynamic and active, being created in each moment. The Meaning of My Life is not the same as the meaning of Yours.
My life at 18 had a much different meaning than my life at 58. If you’d asked me about the Meaning of My Life 40 years ago, I might have told you it was about getting married and having children. For more than 20 years, it was certainly the focus of my life. I was mother, step-mother, and foster mother to a total of sixteen children in those years. I had a particularly soft spot for teenagers. I became the proverbial village that it takes to raise a child: if a child needed a place to be loved, I opened my home and heart.
Looking back, it now feels that those children gave me the Meaning of My Life, that raising children shifted my focus from MY Life to ALL Life, from being a responsible person, to taking responsibility for the future of everyone.
By my age 50, the children were grown and had moved out. It was time for a new adventure. For my 50th birthday, I decided to create my life as a work of art. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time, but the results have been beyond my wildest dreams.
To clear my canvas, I gave up the comfort and familiarity of my home and office. I cut the tethers of place, reduced my belongings to necessities, and created a project that expressed my creativity, purpose, and values. I became a nomad with a mission.
In my late 30’s, I had become a lawyer and was committed to being a peacemaker and healer. I had been using my small-town law practice as a laboratory for new models and tools. In those pre-internet days, I researched through the library, news clippings, and word of mouth. I later created a website to share what I had learned.
My Life as Art project was a natural extension: I would reach out to lonely holistic lawyers in much the same way that I had taken in homeless children, creating a community of support for myself and others, sharing our resources and ideas. I looked for kindred spirits on the internet and I made myself visible for others to find me. I created a website and Youtube channel. I spoke to groups. I began to coalesce a community of innovative, integrative, and interesting lawyers around the world.
Along the way, the American Bar Association recognized me in several ways. I was named a “Legal Rebel“ one of the visionaries, “finding new ways to practice law, represent their clients, adjudicate cases and train the next generation of lawyers.” I also wrote two books, both commissioned and published by the American Bar Association. Both books are collections of stories about Integrative Lawyers, showcasing the development of a movement that is emerging. The books went to places I could not go and let the readers know that they were not alone, that they were part of something.
I fulfilled my childhood dream to travel around the world – several times. My family of choice now stretches around the world.
At the New Story Summit in Findhorn in 2014, we worked on a vision of the future in all professions and areas of society. I was asked to describe the new legal system from the future…in less than a minute. This was what I shared:
The seeds of the 90’s and early 2000’s have flourished.
Lawyers are now recognized for our true purpose: peacemaking, problem-solving and healing the wounds of the community.
Lawmakers serve, conscious of all the stakeholders, and of our interconnectedness with Nature and each other.
Law enforcement focuses on Right Relationships, working in partnership with the community to foster love and protect safety.
Judges are wise leaders who help to balance competing values and hold everyone accountable, with love, compassion and empathy.
Prisons are a part of our past. Now we focus on rehabilitation, healing and reconnection for all members of society.
Law students are trained in holistic thinking and art is part of the core curriculum.
Our history of restorative practices and nonviolent communication in schools has helped to produce citizens who tell their truths, take responsibility and accept accountability.
There are no more lawyer jokes. They’re not funny any more.
Fulfilling that vision now gives my life meaning in this chapter of my life.
~J. Kim Wright, J.D. Integrative Lawyer, Innovator, Systems Change Agent
J. Kim is the author of two American Bar Association books, Lawyers as Peacemakers, a 2010 ABA Best Seller; and Lawyers as Changemakers which will be published in a few months. The American Bar Association named her as one of their “Legal Rebels.” Legal Rebels, they say, are those who are “finding new ways to practice law, represent their clients, adjudicate cases and train the next generation of lawyers.”
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