That there is a difference between law and life is something many will concur with, but such an abstract appreciation of this difference hardly has any influence on our sensitivities. This write-up is laid out in the form of a story for ensuring that the said difference between law and life far from remaining only a theoretically mastered idea reaches the realm of feelings and acquires its own stakes and reality. Petition No- 111 The Petition- A plea to do away with the requirement of Publications for the appointment of Professors in Universities. The Petition would be represented by Advocate X with the respondent being University Commission duly represented by YZ and Associates. The Judge initiated the proceedings for the day, by giving his own observations of the petition before the Court: Justice- “The petition submitted to the Court today, if I may say so, hovers at the limits of the law, as it takes its cue from an actual experience of life, an experience of which the law finds no precedent. The Petitioner prays to the Court to do away with the requirement of publications of scholarly articles in reputable journals for the appointment of professors in universities. The Petitioner claims that he has all the qualifications to be a Professor in a university except that of publications, which he cannot fulfill not for the reasons of any incompetency but because he experiences time in the most unique way”. “Petitioner experiences time not as something which is progressing but as something which rather than moving is just closing down on him, every event circles down on him in a loop mode, every experience of his, comes across to him as something with an antecedent and spreads itself on him rather than moving on. Hence, he cannot write, as his words won't come together as sentences. As every word is circling down on him”. The Judge after making this initial statement gave a puzzled look to the advocate representing the Petitioner and stated, "This is just a case of individual idiosyncrasy. What can the Court do here?". Petitioner’s Advocate- “I beg to disagree my lordship. Rather the Petitioner’s experience of time as a circular loop could just be something which can save our society from imminent collapse”. “Experience of time as a circular loop is a plea for compassion in the face of the relentless onslaught of progress where every conception of sacred is being turned into mundane, our memories are in danger of extinction as nothing comes across as worth remembering. You have Professors, my lordship you will keep publishing articles without thinking if there is anyone reading these articles. In times like this where our conception of time is no more structured or rooted in our experience, but only in the persistent passage or motion of time, here our Petitioner comes across as a person for whom time is just not an empty motion but something which relates to what he is feeling. He is attached to his surroundings, to words, he just wants to be there with his words, his words are good enough for him, he won't form sentences. In his inability to write the Petitioner is trying to save the world from the abyss in which it is falling. He is an example of the fact that life is not only a ceaseless progression but an active preservation of what exists. The petitioner wants to teach his students his unique experience of time and what can result from it, but is unable to do so because of the requirement for Publications, it is a humble prayer to the Court to please do away with this requirement for the sake of Justice”. After hearing the Submission of the Petitioner, the Judge asked the respondent advocate to
state his case. Respondent’s Advocate- “My lordship, I have no battle with the uniqueness of the Petitioner's experience. But I most humbly submit, such devout sensibility towards life cannot be the ground for a change in law. Law, my lordship is a generalized collective expression of any society, since it is a collective expression, it is bound to miss the most original and singular imaginations of life, such as that of the Petitioner. The petitioner should savour and preserve his circular experiencing of time rather than making it the basis of change in the minimum qualifications of appointment of Professors. The petitioner, my lordship is guilty of banalizing his own singular and beautiful experience. Law anyway never aspires to be beautiful it would become life otherwise”. The Judge after hearing both the submissions read out his verdict- "Curious as this case is. But it is replete with immense significance. To begin with, the petitioner is mistaken about the law. Law does not take those kindly who unveil the mystery of existence and lay forward an idea of compassionate and peaceful living once and for all. If the mystery of life does get unveiled once and for all, if synchronicity does get established between life and law then our Petitioner would be the last person to have sublime ideas. Law guards the mystery of life; hence no one gets to know it fully or the society would get banalized. Law would always separate itself from life and it may repress the originality of life only to ensure that the latter does not become like law”. “The petitioner with such singular ideas is duly unfit to teach in a university. The petition is duly rejected as misguided and duly ignorant of the law.” With this order, the Judge closed the case file.
The Verdict and the malaise of Academics
The verdict makes an essential case for the separation between law and life. Law according to the respondent and the Judge guards the mystery or the singularity of life. And law never looks favourably towards the likes of the petitioner who wants to translate their singular experiences of life into law-like realities. Law is a generalized collective expression of society, it would miss individual specific realities or experiences, its banality is an accepted fact. By this logic, if the court accepts this petition which is purely a case of individual idiosyncrasy and gives a judgment according to that, which is doing away with the publication requirement for the appointment of University Professors, then the court would halt the eternal possibility of such sublime experiences and reduce it merely to a revised appointment criterion. The court seems to be thinking that there are ideas, lives, which are so beautiful that success is an impoverishment and some lives deserves tragedy, so that their brilliance is returned to it without any worldly besmirchment.
The verdict is not only wrong but blatantly anti-democratic. Law gets banal not in the original moment of its declaration but in its repetition. The banal laws of today where geniuses at the time of their foundation or declaration. There is a distance between law and life, but that distance is always subject to negotiations due to democratic inclusion of diverse experiences. Law cannot remain mute and perpetually repressive to life and its longings; beneath the façade of law the only content is life.
Law should resist its only banalization by always incorporating in its ambits those experiences which are foundational, which initiate something new, the petition narrated above was one such foundational moment that could have re-defined what law is. In the absence of original or foundational moments law gets reduced to dried up bloodless bureaucratic provisions.
Law should be imagined as a cinema screen where the screen has no role other than to keep showing all those images which the light is throwing upon it. Law has no other purpose than to keep showing all that life is throwing upon it. The entire courtroom narration is a metaphor for contemporary academics. Ironical as it is with so much insistence on publishing, but yet there is hardly any writing in academics of our times. As in the publishing industry instead of writing something, one has to just follow a template, with the right ingredients of literature review, arcane concepts and eco-chamber jargons.
In any reputable research journal, there would always be an insistence on literature review, if one is writing on anything one has to evoke a community of scholars, who are working in that particular field. A writer, like our petitioner, who experiences time like a loop not as progress, may not find any takers in research journals because he has not engaged with a community of scholars. But why should an individual’s writing should always seek a community? Why my experiences, memories, and ideas would only be accepted in writing if it evokes or associates itself with a community. Experiences could be so singular that it may just elude existing community norms or practices.
Why writing in academics have to conform to this theological burden of associating itself with a community or existing scholarship? Literature review is the name of that supposed theological debt that scholars have to bear, have to pay so that their experiences could be legitimised and accepted in academic writing.
In the world of our petitioner, the past never moves away from the present nor future comes by negating present, the petitioner experiences time as one shade or everlasting presence where nothing just moves on but encumbers his personality with all that he has experienced. Past is not lost to the petitioner and future is not yet to come, all that is time is there with our petitioner. Imagine how our petitioner would write. Our petitioner’s writing would never name objects or persons in a successive manner, rather all those objects or people in the petitioners writing would become an experience, as for our petitioner nothing exists solely as a name but everything becomes an experience, is an experience.
Our petitioner would never get a publication in any journal, because he experiences everything, hence he cannot follow the ritualistic exercise of literature review, which is largely a naming exercise. A book, article, or essay for our petitioner contains life in itself, it’s an amalgamation of all that an individual has gone through, it can’t be reduced to a mere footnote, it has to be seen, lived and experienced.
The more our petitioner experiences life, literature, philosophy, politics, the more distant would be for him to get a publication and become a teacher. and Our petitioner has a passion for experiences, which makes him incapable of incurring the academic theological debt of literature review. As experience is a complete reality in itself, it does not need any community validation.
If academics, should also have been like a cinema screen only playing those images which the light was throwing at it, our petitioner would have had a better chance of succeeding in academics. Academics should have no role other than to keep playing all the images which the likes of our petitioner are throwing at it.