On Living a Life of the Intellect


Joseph Campbell said that:

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.

It’s a lucky thing for me that they let me into law school. Because — Ascendent in Geminii, Sun in my Tenth House, an Athena-type Father’s Daughter, mad for politics and prose — law is the perfect profession for me.

I didn’t start out in it. When I grew up in the sixties, I really did believe that my choices were nun (and, Goddess knows, my mother and more than one nice Mother Superior tried to get me into the convent; they tried. And, it wasn’t too off; Sun in Pisces, I have the “religion gene,” and a need to be solitary. But, then, there was that whole thing about the Catholic church hating on women . . . .), nurse (but I fainted at the sight of blood, no matter how many biographies I read (and I read a lot) of Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Edit Cavell, etc.), secretary (women who took “dictation” from others — do I need to say any more?), and, finally, teacher. And, so, for too many years, I taught school when I really needed to be a lawyer.

All of which is a really long wind-up (did I mention the Ascendent Gemini?) to saying that, for the last approx. 170 hours, my job has, at the same time, been demanding most of my attention and has been so intellectually stimulating that I can hardly stand how much I love it. When it gets like this, I spend even most of my dreamtime working out answers to the legal problems that I have. I wake up recharged and ready to go. I’m not sure that’s what Joseph Campbell meant when he talked about “that refreshment, that life within you,” but I think that it’s my version of the same.

And, yet, of course, even I know that it’s not a good balance to spend all of my energy, life force, and time living inside my head, playing the Glass Bead Game, dancing between citations and legal concepts, weaving together strategy and statecraft.

And, so, when I come home, I walk, like a needy lover, barefoot on the wet ground out to the Woodland Garden. I sink onto the stone altar, dig my fingers into the deeply-cold soil, close my eyes, pull garden-scented air into my lungs, and breathe out connection with everything that is. The more that I spend my days living in my head, arraying one set of concepts against another, pulling phrases and case law from the ether onto my computer screen, smiling at the strategy that I’ve crafted, the more that I need to drive past the Potomac and see if She’s glassy or choppy today. The more that I need to check on my rosemary, to put my hands onto the stems of the Virginia spice bush (calycanthus) and feel the Reiki of my Bit of Earth seep into me.

May it be so for you. May you do the work that you were born to do and may your own Bit of Earth help you to stay in balance.

Picture (of one of America’s first “lady lawyers”) found here.

6 responses to “On Living a Life of the Intellect

  1. I spent years being a lawyer when I should have been a teacher. I’m glad we both figured out where we belong. 🙂

  2. It sounds as if you may have been experiencing what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called flow. It can be a heady experience, but eventually one needs to decompress. Apparently you’ve found the right balance. Very good!

  3. Ooooh this is good. I work in environmental policy and spend my working hours in my head — writing, researching, and generally nerding out on things I am passionate about. I am early in my career and just out of grad school. Sometimes, when I hang with my spirit worker tarot reader massage therapist witchy friends, (who I love!) I think I need to be doing something else with my career to be “enough” of a pagan. I get envious of the time they get to spend “in their bodies” rather than their heads. This is a beautiful reminder that even us nerdy intellectuals can connect to place, to land, to spirit and find the balance of it all 🙂

  4. I worked as a paralegal for a while, love my pioneering lady lawyers!

    And I too check on my rosemary, nothing more restorative after brain work than that dumb language.

    “As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.”
    – Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) British writer, statesman and philosopher

  5. Here at Rosemary Cottage there are two large bushes of rosemary growing at the end of the front walkway — right by the public sidewalk — and it is amazing to watch so many folks swipe their hands across the tops of the bushes as they walk by and then breathe deeply from the hands and sigh …

    I decompress by brewing tea, making soup, stews or casseroles or working in the garden. Today — large bushes of frost-dead flowers need to be trimmed down to a winterizered size.

  6. When a woman strives for the bar, get out of her way! My father’s father’s mother was the first African-American woman admitted to the bar south of the Mason-Dixon line (Virginia). While I never got to know her well (she died when I was a child) from family anecdotes she was clearly formidable.

    L. Marion Poe, if you’re interested.

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