About four years ago, I interned on Capitol Hill for a summer. I worked on the Democratic staff on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a gritty group of Hill veterans committed to preserving the big win of passing health care reform. My fierce optimism survived the furnace of a raging and partisan Washington DC. Politics aside, there are good people in those halls.
Almost every day, I would go to a Subway within walking distance from my office in Rayburn. If it wasn’t too hot, I would take my lunch to the nearby Spirit of Justice Park. After finishing my sandwich, I would lay on my back on a particular bench and listen to Re: Stacks by Bon Iver.
It was in those peaceful moments that I first began to dream, to begin the never-ending process of placing myself in an unequal world and thinking about how I might best navigate the uneven landscape.
By the end of the summer, these quiet moments accumulated into some blurry sense of direction. I knew that whatever map I found to guide me, it would be one that directed me towards narratives larger than myself, those dogged stories of hope, community, and justice.
But, as Bon Iver sings towards the end of Re: Stacks:
This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It was simply a recognition that I had tapped briefly into some sense of hope and that I wanted to do whatever possible to amplify that feeling for myself and others. Maybe, I thought, I would go to law school. It would be another crucible for my relentless optimism, but it felt like the right place to examine the current state of affairs, to learn some tools of storytelling.
I’ve been listening to Re: Stacks quite a bit these last few weeks as I near the end of my first quarter of law school at Stanford. It’s put me into that state of dreaming again, fueled by brilliant classmates and inspiring people coming to speak at Stanford.
I read something recently that really struck a chord:
She said, “You know I cannot save them. I am not here to save anybody or to save the world. All I can do — what I am called to do — is to plant myself at the gates of Hope. Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by. But I stand there every day and I call out till my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love…
There’s something for all of us there, I think. Whatever our vocation, we stand, beckoning and calling, singing and shouting, planted at the gates of Hope. This world and our people are beautiful and broken, and we are called to raise that up — to bear witness to the possibility of living with the dignity, bravery, and gladness that befits a human being. That may be what it is to “live our mission.”
I’m learning a lot here at Stanford, but I think the most essential thing has been the contact with so many people standing at the gates of Hope. I don’t know how the rest of law school and beyond will shake out. Amongst all this dreaming, there is again no “crispy realization”. But, if I listen to these people shouting from the gates of Hope telling stories bigger than themselves and find a way to stand beside them, then that is all I can ask of myself.