Excerpts from the Notebooks of Joe Obenberger
by J. D. Obenberger, Attorney at Law
© 1999 J. D. Obenberger
As this monthís deadline approaches, I am in the midst of important litigation in DuPage County. Taking my responsibility to you, the reader, very seriously, I have decided to pass along to you, as this monthís offering, excerpts from a notebook I have filled over the years, with wandering and rambling wisdom collected from many varied sources. I hope that you enjoy these excerpts as much as I do.
1. Of course the game is rigged. But if you wonít play, you canít win.
2. I suppose that angels, saints, virgins, and martyrs donít need the right to privacy, but all of the rest of us do. The founders of our country were tax evading smugglers who kept illegal weapons. Yes, the Bill of Rights protects criminals, but only because it protects all of us.
3. Every person you will meet, no matter how humble his or her circumstance, has certain knowledge and skills that are beyond yours. Knowledge and skill equate to power. Even in the absence of any higher morality, power deserves respect. Although there are other and higher reasons to treat all people with respect, do so at least because you respect that knowledge and power which is different from your own.
4. Never ask a question that you donít want to hear the answer to.
5. Be careful with your wishes; They just might come true.
6. ďMaking LoveĒ is an overused and misleading expression applied to an act, that no matter how pleasurable and emotionally rich, is physically indistinguishable from any other pipe connection in the basic practice of plumbing. The only real evidence and meaningful proof of love lies in the willingness to undergo pain or to give up pleasure for the benefit of another: Love means that someone elseís happiness is more important to you than your own.
7. Real love does not arise out of ignorance, but only with full knowledge of the shortcomings and weaknesses and humanity of another person. When you love, you love in the same words the Romans commanded portrait sculptors to sculpt them with ďwarts and allĒ.
8. Another thing about love. Real love, romantic, parental, or otherwise, cannot be turned on and off like a hot water faucet. It is not a control device to bring another person around to doing what you want or to believing what you believe, or to changing into another person, and those who act warm or cool in any relationship in order to effect a change in the behavior of another richly deserve our pity, because they, least of all, have ever known what real love can be. By all means, we humans can get mad at those we love, but we do this only from imperfection and weakness, and in real love, the spirit of that love remains within us even in the hottest moments of anger.
9. A penis obviously can serve many purposes, a conduit from the urinary system to the outside world, a transit line for gametes, or as an instrument of love, enjoyment, aggression, or pain. In its highest use, it is a living bridge built between two people which, like any other bridge, carries people and things moving in both directions and unites the people it connects.
10. The concept of Duty is only important when it is hard to do our duty, when we want to do the opposite of what our duty requires of us. The sense of duty arises from the high human ethic that there are things more important than ourselves and our immediate desires; Duty impels us to sacrifice ourselves and our well-being for something we believe to be paramount. The notion of Duty may be the highest creation of human thought.
11. The essence of all evil is in using other people like things for your own advantage, pleasure, profit or thrill, and without regard to their own dignity.
12. Nobody ever got hanged for anything he didnít say.
13. Donít take off your clothes until itís time to go to bed.
14. Money really is the highest form of flattery. Women instinctively know a second form of flattery that comes in as a close second.
15. Never believe your own malarkey. And remember to take a good look at yourself once in awhile and burst out laughing. If you canít see the humor in your own weaknesses and humanity, you just donít understand reality.
16. If youíre born to be shot, youíll never get hanged.
17. When it comes to sex, people always think that what they do is good or at least OK, but they usually think that what the other person does is weird or sleazy or tacky: One manís erotica is another manís belly laugh.
18. Passion leaves no room for pride. When you take off your clothes, leave any notions of dignity at the door and make your most enthusiastic best effort to make someone else happy. If it wonít put somebody in the emergency room, itís within fair bounds. If you canít do this, itís not worth doing.
19. Death starts when growing ceases.
20. If you look at the world like a Boy Scout looks at a campsite, with a desire to leave it in better shape when you leave than when you arrived, you will make no big mistake. The proper way to judge a life is whether someone left the world a better place, in at least some small measure. And speaking of the Scouts, their motto is hard to top as two words of practical advice: Be Prepared.
21. Man is the only primate with teeth than enable him to eat flesh. This is why the Gorillas are still in the jungle and why our race dominates the earth. If you doubt the power of bloodlust in modern man, ask yourself why gruesome car accidents always back up traffic across the street, in the opposite lanes of an expressway.
22. If a man speaks to you of his honor, count your fingers after you shake hands with him. If he tells you what he wants or likes, you can believe him most of the time.
23. All politics breaks down into two camps: Those who want to control what other people do, and those who want to live and let live. Our country was founded by the latter kind of people who gave us a constitution providing a healthy measure of personal liberty and freedom from government. It is now dominated by the opposite camp who work hard every day to whittle down our freedom and to keep firm control over all of us.
24. The pamphlet containing all of the criminal laws of this State was 169 pages long in 1976, when I was a first-year law student. The same publisherís version of the criminal laws now contains 1022 pages. I suppose we should all be six times better and safer now. But it doesnít work that way.
If your only tool is a hammer, all of your problems become nails. When you present a problem in society to a legislator, Alderman, or Congressman, his instinct is to pass a law, because that is all he can do, and he is afraid that if he does nothing, voters will hold him responsible for the problem. Case in point: When is the last time you heard of a schoolyard or gang drive-by shooting where the kid bought the weapon at a gun show? But thatís the target of all the new bills. It will mean less freedom for gun collectors, and no real improvement in the safety of society to further regulate gun shows. But it gets headlines and makes the kind of people who donít think things through feel better.
What gets lost in this process is that a lot of problems canít be fixed by laws, and that a lot of times, the law is worse than the problem. It is not politically correct to say so, but courts and laws seldom do much to help, and often times do much to aggravate, problems in families, between spouses, and involving children and adolescents.
25. A daring, thrilling and all-consuming sexual experience is never concluded by a woman breathlessly embracing her lover, looking him in the eye tenderly, and telling him that he ďreally is a nice guy.Ē Nice guys never get laid.
26. One microgram of hope is more powerful than a megaton of despair, but better still than hope is a plan.
27. How many affluent, suburban High Schools take State in football? Whatís that prom queen doing now? Well-adjusted, popular people raised in a happy home amidst economic prosperity seldom develop a killer instinct. But the corollary rule is that, while only adversity and challenge can create drive, overwhelming adversity can and does crush spirit and hope.
28. The award for truth in advertising, in the category of the most accurately named dancer I have ever known, was a brunette named Hunter.
29. ďCatch them off balance. Be audacious. Make no little plansĒ Department: In the Battle of Gettysburg, one man, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain saved the battle, the War, and the Union, at Little Round Top. Before the War, he was a literature professor in a small college in Maine. His men were out of ammunition and water, thirsty, wounded, and almost at despair after repelling five assaults upon their critical position at the far end of the Union lines. There was no reinforcement in sight. Some of his men were prisoners awaiting trial for desertion. He dared to fix bayonets and pivot half the men of the 18th Maine Regiment on the advancing enemy like a closing door: Be audacious where they are prepared for conventional maneuvers.
30. One sign of excellence is the professional who answers his own phone and returns messages and pages. You know heís not trying to dodge you, other clients or patients, or bill-collectors.
31. One of the most valuable lesson I learned in school: One hour of sleep is worth two hours of preparation.
32. It is better to copulate than never.
33. The first rule for any lawyer is to love your client as yourself. Even if this principle doesnít exist in your religious ideas, remember that you canít really understand your client if you donít empathize with him or her; If you donít understand him, how can you ever hope to communicate his ideas to a court?
34. The second most important thing for a lawyer to remember is that so-called constitutional rights are nothing more than dried ink on parchment until you make them live and breathe by enforcing them in court on behalf of your client.
35. The truth really is out there.
36. The very first and most important commandment which the Bible records God Almighty giving to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply, or in other words, to go off and do ďitĒ. It is also a recorded fact that Adam and Eve were not married, had made no commitment to each other, and scarcely even knew each other. Had they been busy doing what Godís commanded, the nasty business with the serpent and the apple never would have come up, there would have been no original sin nor need for a saviorís death on a cross, and weíd all be living eternally in the Garden of Eden. I suspect that a church which more actively promoted and extolled the virtues of frequent sex in obedience to Godís law, rather than mortification, sacrifice, penance, and self-flagellation for violation of His law, would attract a huge membership and bring great joy to the world.
37. Whenever you do anything important in life, do it like you fuck: Do it like you mean it.
38. Science records four basic forces in the universe, gravity, electromagnetic force, and the strong and weak forces present in a nucleus. Stronger than any of these, and the most powerful in the universe, is the power of human self-rationalization, under which an otherwise brilliant person can talk himself out of any known truth or deeply held conviction that gets in the way of doing what he wants to do.
39. Women always have a plan. It is often subtle and hard to discern. Men always have a plan, too, but it is always the same plan and as predictable as the rising of the sun.
40. The whole trick is to find something that you like so much that youíd be willing to do it for nothing, and to find a way to make a living at it.
41. You can usually tell more about somebody by hearing the way he or she laughs than you can learn through two hours of cross-examination or interrogation.
42. Eat life in big gulps, and leave moderation for the people who live in monasteries.
43. Learn CPR, to deliver a baby and to change diapers, to set a dislocation, to find the area of a circle, triange or rectangle, to operate a personal computer and to cruise cyberspace, to know the phases of the moon and the seasons of the constellations, to encourage the young and to comfort the sick, grieving, and dying, to take orders and to give orders, to sail a small boat and to navigate it, to build a brick wall and to raise garden fruits and vegetables, to make wine and beer and cheese and sausages, to make music and to speak another language, to perform magic, to find your way in the woods and to build a campfire, and fill your years with the rich experience of life. Specialization is meant for members of the insect kingdom.
Back to Articles