While teaching my first cross-cultural dispute resolution class for the new year here at Pepperdine Law, a student (let’s use a fictitious name: Jim) walked up to me and asked, “Prof. Singh you motivate us to write and publish but how can I publish something, when almost everything in law that I want to write in is already published?”
I smiled and said, “I am going to give you an indirect reply, if you don’t mind, followed by a direct reply.” Jim nodded in affirmative and I asked, “do you listen to music”, “Yes, I love music!” came the reply.
I asked, well that’s great and I love music too but please tell me one thing. Jim by now is giving me his full attention. I asked, “Which song from 2006 are you in love with?” Jim looked puzzled with my question and took about a minute to say: “Well professor most songs I listen to were produced this in 2016 or 2015 but there are a few golden songs that I grew up listening to; and I do listen to them here and there but quite often!” Jim went on to share what those songs were.
About five minutes in our conversation and having heard some of the “golden songs”, I then asked, “is the music you are listening to in 2017…let’s say any different from the golden songs you referred to?” Jim said, “Yes of course! They are so much different, the composition, the lyrics and even the production has changed so much. I love them both”
Now going to my indirect point, I said, well if the creators of the “new” songs that you are listening to in 2017 had assumed that all songs have already been written then you would have missed listening to your new song collection, right?”
Yes, said Jim. Now with the risk of sounding like a parent I continued, “I don’t want future readers to miss on a scholarship just because you assume that all materials have already been covered!” Now more enigmatic than ever been in the past six minutes, Jim said, “I look forward to next week professor” but wait, weren’t you going to also give a direct answer?
I said, “of course and I am glad you remember! I try to motivate you to publish because there is also a personal reason. I wish my professors had motivated me to write when I went to my law school, writing didn’t come easy to me and especially writing in the American Journals, where the standards are so different.”
I thought to myself, sometimes one motivation is all we need; especially when the compulsion for quick consumption is much more attractive than the long road of creative creation. So speaking directly I said,
“We all have beautiful minds and just like the golden songs you listen to, what you can create is still unwritten.” and with smiles we ended our conversation.