Wisdom From An Unlikely Source

After my own “sabbatical” I started the practice of counseling others about what to expect if they have to go to prison, because I believe the “devil you know” is easier to deal with than “the devil you don’t know.” Like most lawyers I was trained to use the court opinions of the past to bolster a present argument. So I am always on the lookout for other’s words to bring comfort to the people I counsel. This weekend I was listening to a book on tape, Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. God sends us nudges, but this time he sent me a golden nugget.


I wish the words were mine but they are not. I certainly know exactly the emotions he describes. They come from a man who was sentenced to 8 years in prison, and ultimately got out. He was not bitter or upset at all. In fact he had never been happier. He said he had a new world of people to whom he feels close. He thought he was living his life as well as it had ever been lived. His words carry a message beyond the prison experience:


“If the incarceration experience doesn’t break your spirit, it changes you in a way that you may lose many fears. You begin to realize that your life is not ruled by your ego and ambition and that it can end any day at any time. So why worry? You learn that just like on the street, there is life in prison, and random people get there based on the jeopardy of the system. The prisons are filled by people who crossed the law, as well by those who were incidentally and circumstantially are picked and crushed by somebody else’s agenda. On the other hand, as a vivid benefit, you become very much independent of material property and learn to appreciate very simple pleasures in life such as the sunlight and morning breeze.”


I am counseling at the present a woman about to go away to prison several years, and I was worried how she would hold up. She is one I believe in the words above was “picked up and crushed” by someone else’s agenda. I sent her the words above. She wrote me right back. Her response: “In a strange way, I am almost grateful for the experience.” I am no longer worried.

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