Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another thing that perhaps has not changed

I don't know where it came in y'all's education but you probably had some point where the school had you take all kinds of aptitude and interest tests and ran you through some exercises to explore potential vocations. For us it was in the ninth grade.

Whether I can do anything or not, I am terrific at taking most tests, so my aptitude for damn near anything seemed evident. Inclination was another matter altogether. I think I was in the 99th percentile for mechanical aptitude and I distinctly remember being in the 1st percentile for mechanical interest. In other words, 99% of the population is more interested in mechanical relationships than I am, though only 1% conceptualizes mechanical relationships more easily. The contrast could hardly be greater. I could grasp how things worked in the purely physical realm but it really did not make my juices flow. Time has mellowed this. I remain as disinterested as ever, for the most part, but I don't even track it much either.

You do not want me to repair anything in your house, your vehicle, or anywhere else. Almost all the men in my family are "handy" but I decidedly am not.

Anyway, the career I pondered as I neared my fifteenth birthday was the law. My teachers thought this was a good idea because I was constantly arguing with them and usually won. If it was about ideas and logic and persuasion, you could count me in.

I loved Latin phrases too--and still do--so I know that de minimis is NOT spelled "de minimus," no matter how it is pronounced in common parlance, and I know this because I understand it. De minimis non curat lex. The law does not concern itself with minimal matters. Or, in the vulgar tongue, "Don't waste the court's time arguing over mouse turds."

In accountancy we call that the principle of materiality. There may be minor errors in the books but we are only concerned with material errors that make a difference worth fretting about.

A couple of items came together today that led me to reflect on the vocational unit in the 9th grade.

At work someone called about making selections that included alphanumeric combinations that looked to me like legal references. When USC does not refer to the University of Southern California (ugh! Go Bruins!), it must mean the US Code. At least that was my instinct. And the instinct was right. In between answering phone calls I looked up the three codes involved, taking advantage of the Cornell University law sources online (to which I made a donation last year because I use it as a reference for this blog).

Then tonight, as I looked over the news and my posts on findings in various courts and my passion for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the rule of law - equally and impartially applied - well, it seems that a certain passion has perdured over almost half a century. It is mostly peripheral, but it is there.

So this post is about pausing to consider one more theme in the longer trajectory of my life.

IANAL is an online acronym for "I am not a lawyer," usually prefacing an observation with this disclaimer to learned knowledge of the law and how it is, or ought to be, applied. So my ramblings here must always be taken in the light that IANAL. But as a a citizen with no legal training, I find the law - especially its larger principles - fascinating. It is a means for seeking and applying justice with some impartiality, a tool to move us from the whims of the powerful to social equity. I think that's a good thing.

Oh, and in the summer following that academic year, God shook up my world and set me on a very different path. But that is another story and this late night ramble has gone on long enough.

Sleep well, kittens.
--the BB


susankay said...

At some point I also was interested in the Law. (This came after archaeology, astronomy, theology and some other stuff now forgotten). By the time I yearned for Law School, I was older, self supporting and unwilling to go deep into debt and quit working in order to go to law school.

My one legal triumph came when I was running an HMO in New Jersey and we were served with notice from a law firm that someone was suing us. It didn't say what it was about and I wanted to know. After calling the lawyer, I was told that he ONLY spoke to other lawyers -- and I said: "Well, I'm here on contract from New Mexico and I'm not licensed in New Jersey..." It worked!

Paul said...

Susankay, when I got to the end of your story I sounded like a youngster. I said, "Sweet!"