If you're looking for a role model of reasoned, intellectual progressivism and impassioned dissent in our times, Supreme Court justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great one. The 83-year-old justice occupies a position of respect and deference from Democrats and progressives that's similar to the towering reputation the late archconservative justice Antonin Scalia, her dear departed friend, enjoyed among conservatives. So if you're curious to get some takes on enjoying a purposeful existence, you might be interested in Ginsburg's take on living a meaningful life. After all, there are plenty of justices throughout history, but only one RBG.
As the San Jose Mercury News detailed this week, Ginsburg spoke in front of a packed crowd on Monday night in a conversation with Professor Jane Shaw, a reverend and dean for religious life at Stanford University's Memorial Church. And anybody who's a fan of the justice and her trailblazing work on the court ― which the audience in attendance reportedly was, meeting her with loud applause and enraptured attention throughout the event ― her views on uniting one's life with one's purpose are sure to be of interest. So what did she cite as her most important lesson?
If you are going to be a lawyer, and just practice your profession, well you have a skill, so you're very much like a plumber. But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That's what I think a meaningful life is ― one lives not just for oneself, but for one's community.
Ginsburg also acknowledged that she'd like to see the electoral college ended ― preach it, right? ― though she declined to offer any opinion on the election of Donald Trump. That's a shrewd move, considering she was criticized by many court-watchers for overextending her criticisms of the new president back when he was a candidate.
Given that she publicly said she "[couldn't] imagine what our country would be with Donald Trump as our president," there will already surely be calls for her to recuse herself from high-profile cases involving the president's agenda, like a possible ruling on his hyper-contentious immigration order. Adding more fuel to that fire, beyond being generally considered out-of-bounds for a justice, would not help matters.
Her reflection on the way to live a fulfilled, community-minded life, however, is advice anybody can take and run with, regardless of whether you're a lawyer or a plumber like her examples, or a technician, or a factory worker, or an organizer, or an artist. Simply put, nobody is ruled out from practicing their craft in a way that allows them to help lift up the people around them, whether by donating to worthy causes, volunteering, or simply providing a valuable object lesson for the people all around them.