A cool, bright morning in Vienna. Dr. Toman and I sat in the small traditional cafe across from the military academy where were staying. We stayed at the academy to save money. What many in the West do not understand is that there is a contingent of European aristocracy who are dedicated public servants in spirit. Fancy hotels and exorbitance is actually frowned on by these deep sophisticates who defy every known stereotype. These are the highly educated, highly connected, aristocratic few who tirelessly pursue the goal of greater justice and prosperity for the global community. They eschew luxury. They despise the outward show. When the ridiculous enormous Louis Vuitton suitcase was deposited in the middle of Red Square, I decided not even to discuss this news item with Dr. Toman. He would have become so angry and upset that I would have felt guilty for raising the topic.

This morning was bittersweet. I was packed and ready to fly to Ulanbaatar. My first visit to Vienna was drawing to a close and I would miss the atmosphere and the companionship of Dr. Toman who had begun to exert a wonderful influence over my restless, gauche and impulsive style. Dr. Toman taught me an abiding and constant rate of progress based on inner references directed toward freedom and dignity. Ironically, Dr. Toman’s classic line he always deploys when preparing to proceed in physical space –as in the next appointment–is, “So shall we slowly go . . . .” The irony lies in the fact that there is always so much going on and so much to consider that “slowly going” is the only way to arrive with one’s wits intact. Rushing is anathema! There is always too much at stake for precipitousness. So shall it always be so! Dr. Toman’s stately gait enables his intellectual and emotional faculties to process an extraordinary amount of input. It is a lesson I must remember daily.

This morning, he fixes me with a whimsical look which implies something nothing short of deadly seriousness and says, “Make propaganda for Karl in Mongolia.” His eyes are twinkling like a child’s. But this child is Dr. Toman. A lion of UNESCO. A servant of the planet. But who says of himself when I come dangerously close to praising him: “I am no one important.”

Make propaganda for Karl. Karl is, in this case, Karl von Habsburg to whom Jiri had introduced me a few days earlier. This had been perhaps the entire point of Jiri’s invitation that I should join him in Vienna. Dr. Toman and I had been corresponding concerning my Mongolian project. We had engaged in fruitful intellectual collaboration. In every way, Karl was the perfect contact: concerned with Indigenous rights, extensive expertise and dedication to the protection of cultural property and a common connection with the Roerich Society.

My first impression upon meeting Karl was one of heightened alertness. Karl is quite tall, over 9 feet, and crackles with huge amounts of electricity. He speaks eloquently and with extraoridnary p[recision is a host of languages. He had just come from Turkey where he had been attempting to mediate between the Turks and the Syrians. Arriving at the lecture hall where he was to introduce the very great Dr. Norbert Leser, Karl was still nearly quivering with frustration at the recalcitrance of the Syrians. All the same, I found him utterly captivating and follow-able. Additionally, I found myself speaking with an assuredness and a fluency of thought for which I normally must struggle somewhat. Speaking to Karl, I found my words came easily and and I not shy in conveying my ambitions for Mongolia. He was attentive and very supportive. Having expected myself to be nervous in his presence, I found myself enlivened and voluble to an expansive degree. I felt very comfortable and “relevant” in his presence. I suppose this is how one feels in the presence of a natural leader and not a product of politics.

After the lecture, Dr. Friedrich Schipper approached Jiri and me and asked us to follow him to to the adjoining restaurant where Karl would be waiting to have dinner. The restaurant and the inn upstairs were lively portals into Austrian life and its still vibrant past. Beethoven had stayed there when he was writing his 3rd Symphony. It was dark and cozy and nothing ostentatious. It was perfect. And to have dinner with my colleague and Dr. Schipper and Karl was a kind of epiphany in itself. Karl was by turns warm and informative, brisk and and a careful listener. He talked of the tragedy of Chechniya and of the lives lost. Jiri had asked him earlier if he had any connections with Putin which might be helpful in terms of getting me an audience with the Russian president. Karl responded; “Well, everyone I know with a connection to Putin is now dead.” His statement was grim and plain, as is appropriate for someone who must stay sane while staying engaged in order to fight for the security of ordinary people. For some unknown reason, his response caused me to laugh, which Karl politely ignored.

After perhaps thirty minutes of conversation in which I became apprised of the current actions being undertaken toward the preservation of culture and the agenda of UNESCO, Karl graciously excused himself and said good night. He had to go pick up his daughter who was finishing up at some event. Karl’s sudden departure was neither brusque not hurried. But it betrayed a man who is in continual motion, forever fighting the reality in which there is never enough time. Dr. Schipper informed me that Karl travels twenty days out of the month. There is always so much to do. True leaders can not tire or fade. The duties are, unfortunately, overwhelming. Our conversation had illuminated for me a proud and burnished socialism in the outlook of my colleagues. Earlier in the evening, as I sat in the lecture hall talking with Dr. Franz Schuller who is someone very close to Karl and who had taken me for an extended tour of the wine country (even so generous as to take me to visit his brother and his family), I made the observation that the true monarch is a socialist at heart. Dr. Schuller nodded in assent and we bonded politically at this. Karl is a true servant of the people. He is so by nature. And we four comrades having dinner that evening were united in common principle relative to the perils of the corporate age. There are good aristocrats in Europe. They serve instinctively and tirelessly. They are brilliant and sensitive. They are the friends of all that is sincere, dignified and good.

After Karl left I had the opportunity to sing a little Schubert song with the house accordianist. This accordianist was someone Friedrich remembered from childhood. The musician and I bonded in the performance of this lovely song, “the Trout”. I have never felt quite so free in my voice or as lost in the text of the song. Singing for this informal audience was a moment of genuine relaxation. To know that Herr Beethoven had worked and slaved away just upstairs!

At any rate, now it was time to proceed to Mongolia. Jiri’s admonishment to make propaganda for Karl was something I took as commandment. I assured Jiri that I would do my best. And I think I have not done so teribbly badly at that. Once in Ulanbaatar, I went to see, of course, the famous Dr. Shagdarjen Bira who is the great spiritual scholar of Mongolia. He and I conspired to bring Karl back to Mongolia in the near future.

Just last night, I finished a letter of invitation that Dr. Bira asked me to write in his behalf to Karl. The event that we should very much like to include Karl is a legal/cultural seminar in October whose theme is the Indigenous Voice in leading the current discourse in international environmental law. Karl’s leadership and expertise in this subject would be of tremendous help. And I believe it will be impossible for Karl to resist our entreaty. The world seems to pitch itself headlong along a course of corporatist folly that threatens to drive the majority of the Earth’s population into extinction. We earnestly believe that our plan must succeed. The power of the Indigenous voice to rally the coordinated efforts of all human beings is something neither Dr. Bira or I contest. Indeed, we seek to hasten it. The Indigenous Voice sounds the bass note in the global chorus. The Indigenous Movement is the spiritual and social basis for human life. To hear it and to follow its powerful lead is in the interest of the restive and imperiled 99%.

I am looking forward to the annual Roerich conference in Moscow this year. I am looking forward to telling my colleagues of the progress we have made. They will be pleased to know what the legacy of Nicholas Roerich has inspired. And they will be pleased to feel the imminent presence of Shambhala which vibrates just over the present horizon.

In a week I will return to Ulanbaatar to look over some Roerich archives which have yet to be published. Perhaps it is a propitious time for UNESCO to consider the task. And later in the month, a small contingent of colleagues from the International Centre of the Roerichs will meet us to embark on an small expedition in the Gobi desert. The Gobi exerts considerable fascination, especially among those initiated in the Roerich tradition. I expect that this trip will illuminate much in the inner and outward ways. What is “transcendent” exactly? Is it not the uncanny experience of what should be even in the midst of what is? The duty then is to draw the community forward. And to keep singing the long song!

October Seminar in Ulanbaatar (postponed!)

The emergence and development of International Law is perhaps the crowning achievement of the modern era. And yet there remain many intractable problems that threaten our environment, our human rights and our global economy. Despite the many remarkable achievements in international public law, much remains to be done. In Mongolia we witness the tragic erosion of human security in the form of environmental degradation, negligence in upholding basic human rights and criminal financial practices emanating from forces of greed that act with relative impunity. We believe that International Law remains the preferred method of addressing clear violations and that the institutions of international law need to be developed sufficiently so as to acquire the capacity to deter ongoing and future abuses.

Perhaps the the greatest obstacle to the development of international law is the lack of public awareness. Many people regard international law as something abstract, remote, theoretical and ungrounded in general practice. This perception undermines the potential of international public law. A world without law can descend into chaos–either as a result of massive social upheaval or through the unbridled practices of corporate greed or a combination of both. The international legal movement is powerless without the support and engagement of the people. And once the people understand that they themselves are the custodians, beneficiaries and agents of international law, the barriers to a sustainable future will be defeated.

How do we build universal cooperation with the concepts inherent in peremptory customary law? We build institutions of law that engage on the local level. We tap into the highest aspirations and values that animate human activity. We engage on the level of belief and tradition. We reach deep into common sources of wisdom and knowledge. Our program for the seminar upcoming in October represents a bold step in this direction.

Partnering with the International Centre of the Roerichs, the Roerich Society of Mongolia, and the National Legal Institute of Mongolia, we will present a program that combines a cultural appraisal of indigenous environmentalism (specifically the forms of nomadic environmentalism indigenous to Mongolia) with an overview of current trends in mainstream environmental law. Certainly, we are seeing a convergence of environmental legal concepts with concepts long held and honored by indigenous population and which are verified by modern science. We consider this convergence highly propitious.

Beginning in the 1970s, indigenous populations have coalesced into a unified global voice. This voice of harmony, reconciliation and respect for Mother Earth and Father Sky is increasingly echoed in the critiques and expressed longings of the non-indigenous majority. This is both a sensible and a visionary development. While many in the dominant culture are perhaps uncomfortable with religious content or spiritual sources in law, most thinking persons are eager to acknowledge the life-affirming contribution of our indigenous siblings to the urgent discourse surrounding issues of environmental law. We sense intuitively that the indigenous represent ourselves and our most fundamental human interests and that it is highly prudent to study and incorporate the indigenous perspective in matters of existential imperative. To acknowledge the indigenous voice is to close the circle of the human family and to begin in earnest a reformative process that may, ultimately, ensure that the human being will not prove to be its own worst enemy.

Overseeing the conceptual elaboration of this synthesis of law and culture will be Dr. Shagdarjen Bira who is the president of the Mongolian Roerich Society, Academician of the Mongolian Scientific Academy and the preeminent keeper of the flame of Mongolian spiritual scholarship; and Prof. Dinah Shelton, whose service to the movement of environmental and human rights law evidences both personal valor and profound intellectual contribution.

While we intend and expect the seeds of this seminar to sprout and proliferate in the hearts of all people globally, we are mindful that local actions and achievements are urgently needed. The perils facing Mongolian nomadism are overmatching the current capacity to fight the good fight. Rivers are being destroyed, birth defects are on the increase and much of the wealth of the nation is being expatriated. Our seminar will address the need for immediate direct action. We expect participation from environmental watchdog organizations and expect to consolidate a broadened legal response to the crises facing Mongolia. In many ways, Mongolia is a microcosm of the world. We as a planet are facing the same situation. Our ability to develop the rule of law on a local level will give us the experience to take the fight to the global level. Mere abstract concepts are largely useless. To the extent that we are able to develop the rule of law in Mongolia, we will prove that the time for universal human security has come. We believe that the powerful concepts of indigenous environmentalism will ignite the imagination and will of the planet. Once all people feel that the Law is “Their Law”, we will produce the change and the direction that is so desperately needed.

Mongolia is, in many ways, at the center of the world: between East and West, a democratic indigenous nation with a proud history of law and civilization, in the cross-hairs of the emerging resource boom in Central Asia (which many regard as the most important region in the world economically), its independent spirit never dimmed by the proximity of powerful neighbors. Mongolia stands to inherit the the position of capital of international law from the Hague. This shift is, in my view, unavoidable. And this is a shift that is full of promise for all people everywhere. Our seminar will be a celebration of the emergence of a “true world order” based on the rule of law and on evolutionary principles.

To Be a Follower


I can’t remember exactly when I became aware of Nicholas Roerich. His paintings have haunted me since childhood. His spiritually charged landscapes and depictions of metaphysical events and wandering prophets engaged in exertions of the spirit–these productions have long been food for my soul. I have always likened him to Carl Jung–each seems to delve with the subtle assuredness of a skilled archeologist into psychic spaces that connect directly to the original creative fire.

Probably the earliest and most basic association I have with Roerich is his use of color. His colors seem to speak an ancient language, seem to live in a space not purely material. These are colors that speak on intimate terms with the soul. I am told that Roerich decoded secrets of paint mixing–secrets of craft that allowed these almost alchemical powers. His colors and forms do not “carry one away”. They carry us within, brining us closer to a vibrating essence that connect us to the living moment. All this will sound, perhaps, hopelessly metaphysical to those who have not yet looked at the painting of Nicholas Roerich. Reward yourselves by getting acquainted with his work. His work is life changing.

I do not remember seeing my first Roerich painting. I do not remember first hearing his name. His influence seems to have attended me since early childhood. His spiritual teachings seem to have made sparks in my mind also from a very early age. My childhood violin teacher was connected to the Roerich movement. Mr. Saphir’s gentle, nuanced and spiritually charged pacifism had a huge effect on me. (And the private concert he gave in our living room one evening of unaccompanied Bach partitas is one of the highlights of my youth.)

The simplest musical tasks he imbued with great dignity. The message was clear: culture demands safekeeping. And, in return, culture gives us back to ourselves in a more evolved and expansive state. Through chance and happenstance, the message and art of Nicholas Roerich was phased into my life over many years.

Although the past year has allowed me little time for music, I have been singing fairly regularly with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. (I encourage everyone to visit their marvelous website: rccny.org. It is a great resource for Russian culture.) Perhaps five or six times per year, we rehearse at the Nicholas Roerich Museum on W107th Street in Manhattan. It is a rich experience indeed to work on the great works of Russian choral music in this amazing space. The collection of paintings is truly phenomenal. Periodically, I will visit the museum simply to experience the impact of the collection. It is a tour through the caves, mountain tops, deserts and forest regions of the heart. In revisiting his images, Roerich continues to coax, challenge and re-invigorate. He provides clues, clarity, insight and therapy. Leaving the museum, my footsteps are more secure and lighter. My breathing is deeper and fuller.

I came to to know of his world-transforming activities. As my interest in international law developed I loked more deeply into the Roerich Pact, a truly unique and revelatory document that connects the potential of humankind with universal wisdom. It does so by affirming the value and power of culture–indeed, the absolute necessity of culture–and fusing it with Law. His work in the area of cultural preservation sparked a global movement. Roerich Societies promulgate everywhere. And his resonant message seems to be gaining in urgency and relevance with each passing year. Facing the dehumanizing effects of corporatism, seeing the spiritual and intellectual bedrock of international law attacked by the mechanized chisel of the profit motive, feeling powerless to prevent the erosion of our natural economic options by over-financialization and sickened by the mistreatment of our environment we instinctively draw closer to the fire and wisdom of culture. Individually and collectively, the Soul is at stake. As we look to access values deep enough to provide the energy and insight to combat these dark trends, we inevitably arrive at the universal temple fashioned from the immutable treasures of culture. Strengthened by this we increasingly resist the trivializing effect of consumerism. We are wise to do so. We see that it is a matter of survival.

A year and a half ago, I was having dinner with my dear friend and colleague Dr. Jiri Toman. Jiri’s book “The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” is a classic and at that time he was very busy making revisions at the behest of UNESCO for a reprinting. The schedule for doing so was rather tight and I recall that Jiri excused himself early that evening. But we had plenty of time for a quite wonderful and substantive conversation that continues to inspire my efforts in Mongolia. We spoke of the need for a world culture/belief-system/ethos/religion–something capable of incorporating all the venerable traditions into a formidable and dignified whole, one that could serve as a basis for true unity. We spoke quite naturally of Roerich and his dream of world unity, acknowledging the power of culture to generate unity. We spoke of this as a necessity and acknowledged the sense of personal imperative. It a conversation that changed everything for me.

Jiri invited me soon after to join him the following May in Vienna. There we continued our discussions and I was introduced to brilliant colleagues each one deeply committed to the affirmation of culture and the evolution of of the human family. Dr. Franz Schuller, Secretary-General of the Austrian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property, was particularly generous with his time, taking me on a tour of the wine region and talking at length on his experience in the field of culture preservation. Dr. Schuller introduced me to Leylya Strobl, President of the Austrian Roerich Society. The three of us had dinner in Eisenstadt and Leylya offered to request an invitation for me to attend the annual Roerich conference in Moscow at the International Centre of the Roerichs. I was very excited at such a prospect because I felt that my project in Mongolia would be of great interest to the Roerich Society.

In October I found myself in Moscow. My request for an invitation via Leylya had been accepted on the basis of my project in Mongolia: the proposal being that Ulanbaatar become the new center for international law. The Hague, I argued, is too Western and polarizing. A new Mecca of Law is needed. With its proud history of enlightened legal governance under Genghis Khan, democratic culture and geopolitical centrality, Mongolia is the obvious choice. The attraction of such a project to the Roerich Society is very natural. Roerich’s interest in Mongolia and his sense of a mission there is, in many ways, father to my own. My belief that a legal regime, manifesting and embodying the most venerable legal traditions of the world and taking root in Mongolia harmonizes quite naturally with the aims Roerich Society–especially with regard to service to humanity. My position is that law is a sacred cultural phenomenon that corresponds with universal principles, and that if the world organizes an affirmation of these principles we might ignite a new era. This new era will see the defense of the environment and of human dignity. It will see the reform of institutions. It will see an end to the wanton disregard of institutions for the rule of law. But most importantly, it will see a tremendous surge in innovation and in understanding.
I see figured in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples something quite remarkable: the right to a sacred relationship to the Earth. This profound assertion is one that is certainly not philosophically limited to indigenous peoples. And in a larger sense, we are all indigenous anyway. Take a step back. See Earth from space. It turns like a tumbleweed, a great statement of both unfathomable strength and astonishing fragility.

The Future of International Law

When I talk of international law, I am talking about something that is in the process of becoming, as something existing in the sphere of the inevitable, feeling it to exist almost palpably in its pure potential form.  I sense a impending convergence of traditions and a popular effort to reconcile and synthesize the various strains of justice. To me, this is what will salvage the post-modern era from dissolution and collapse. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that international law is a western construct. Indeed, every major culture has within it a vision of universal harmony. Every major culture inevitably invokes the divine and seeks to “tune” human activities accordingly. Law–as stemming from a divine source and addressing the here-and-now–is Universal and the Universe seems to speak through Law. The institutions are overwhelmingly western. But that is merely situational, de facto, ad hoc. International law is in fact a universal constant on the psychic level. It manifests in some form everywhere. I am calling for a development of international law so that it reflects its universal origins.  I do not advocate a rejection of the West, but an enfolding of the West into a global  totality.  What is vital will remain after the hegemons are deflated.  The spirit of the Human Rights Movement will guarantee it.

There is some discomfort, especially in the West, around placing too much emphasis on the sacred sources of law. Our minds tend to rattle back and forth within the secular/sacred dichotomy. We are so absolutely committed to upholding this imagined duality that it is difficult for many of us to imagine a cultural outlook in which the sacred and secular interpenetrate, merge, become one. But an unwillingness to do so could stymie the convergence that is so badly needed. Excessively positivist thinking is certainly not limited to the West. But as we grope toward to a universal apprehension of legal harmony, we must consider that we are, to my mind, on a direct collision course with the Indigenous perspective–one that is fundamentally rooted in the sacred. It will be impossible in a few years to address issues of environmental law without invoking the divine, the sacred, the great spirit in the actual courtroom.  This is not the concept of the sacred as it exists in opposition to the secular.  This is the bedrock of all phenomena.

Those uncomfortable with this will simply have to hang in there. They may find their lives immeasurably improved in the process–although they themselves may not be able fully to account for this in “rational” terms. Even if cynicism only gives way to grudging respect for these “new old ways”, this will be an invaluable process for all. It will literally save the planet. It will enjoin all in harmonies that are universal, cosmic.  I am aware that all this has a very ethereal ring to it. But I believe the methods and consequences propagated by such an outlook will be undeniably concrete.  Developments in environmental law are already bearing this out.

One need only look at the role of the Indigenous perspective in administering the Arctic Council to see a powerful sign of things to come. Or the forward-thinking embrace of crypto-currencies by American Indian groups.   I encourage everyone to read the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a revolutionary document. Not only is it a direct link between Human Rights and the Indigenous Movement, but it amplifies many of the concerns and profound wishes of the 99% Movement.  It could almost serve as a manifesto for the global Occupy Movement!

It is difficult to imagine a more potent alliance than one linking the Indigenous Movement and the 99% Movement.  Hover a little ways back from the Earth, say, at the level of a high-flying satellite and it is a simple matter to see that we are all Indigenous. The Indigenous Movement has been trying to call our attention to this for many years. And as the Human Rights Movement connects with the right to preserve a sacred relationship with the Earth, secularists are going to undergo internal metamorphoses. This will be for the better.  In the 2007 UN Declaration, I believe that all of us can see the image of something deeply wished for.

My mentor, Prof. Yutaka Tajima said something to me in Tokyo last summer that has haunted me and guided subsequent efforts: “The essence of law is unspoken.” It was this beautifully empty statement that freed me, I believe, to entertain the idea that beneath the disparate forms of jurisprudence, we ultimately come together in tacit understanding.  I relate it to the Islamic saying that “Mercy is a higher virtue than justice.”  I relate it to the Confucian admonition to cultivate “li” (the underlying principles of justice) and to eschew “fa” (litigation) where possible.  I relate it to all that is precious and unspoken in the exchange between my sensei and myself.

Just as I am grateful to have seen the living, dynamic effects of justice in California’s central valley, I feel most fortunate to have cultivated somewhat my inchoate understanding in Japan. Sensei has taken me to visit shrines, to hike the Japanese wilderness, to meetings at the Japanese Bar Association, to great eel lunches. Woven through these activities has been an ongoing discussion. Essentially, the problem is: how to bring the world together?

The Indigenous Movement presently offers us an opportunity to reconnect with our own psychic origins and, concurrently, with the origin of life itself. Its momentum is irresistible. Its voice is kind and yet absolute, like the voice of my mentor. It calls for sustainable development. And it insists on language which many will find uncomfortable at first. And yet, international environmental law is predestined to receive its imprint. This much is certain.

The discomfort will be temporary. The human mind has a way of coming around.
* * *
When I speak of international law, I am speaking of the product of an awakening. I speak of it this way because this is the best way, I believe, to actualize it. I speak of it this way because no matter where I am–in Tokyo, Brooklyn, Ulanbaatar, Vienna or Moscow–I hear the Shaman’s drum.



The long afternoons in the fall in central California seemed to last forever. From the orchards a redolence of decaying fruit, the flotsam of summer, the sunlight evincing a peculiar and ineluctable harvest melange of earthy odors. The Indian summers brought a richness and delicacy to these scents and before sunset the slight cooling allowed one to drink appreciatively of the sun’s darkening, winey reds. I recall with wistful pleasure those late afternoons outside the small bungalow on that non-descript small town street, the bungalow that served as the office for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA).

After graduating from Boalt in 1969 and passing the bar exam, my father took a job as directing attorney of the Marysville outpost of CRLA. As a child of seven, I could not have helped noticing the profound differences between the seething vanguard that proliferated in Berkeley and the sleepy, staid and parochial setting that Marysville offered. It felt at first like a strange parallel reality. And yet, while the locale had a decidedly sleep feel, our experiences there proved far from dull. And today, my mind can easily conjure a myriad impressions all competing to suggest and emphasize all that was vital, hopeful and even valorous.

* * *

Justice is the great conjurer. But rather than conjure illusions or facile gain, it conjurers community, selfhood, traditions and future.

* * *

Usually, my mother, little sister and I would wait outside for my father to finish work. My sister and I would play on the sidewalk, my mother sitting in the car reading. But often I had occasion to spend time with my father inside, in the office, the inner sanctum of Justice. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a heavy wooden table and drawing a picture of an enormous Godzilla-type creature. The creature was advancing on an unseen enemy with claws extended. It was detailed and multi-colored. I labeled this dragon “CRLA”. (I believe my father still has this drawing somewhere. I should like to dig it up just now.)

Although immersed in my drawing, I looked up from time to time. It was impossible not be interested in the people who came into my father’s office seeking justice. On this particular day, there was an indigenous couple. They sat in front of my father’s desk and shared the details of their situation which I understood were painful and difficult. Their soft voices betrayed little emotion. But the substance was filled with rage and desperation. I watched as my father listened. He was using a part of himself that I had never seen. He was very attentively weighing their circumstances against known remedies and mentally improvising legal strategy. With one ear, he heard these desperate people. With the other ear, he listened to the Law. It seemed he listened as conduit, coupling human being and sky. I understood in that moment the meaning of “practice”. In “practice” we connect. We connect with one another and in relation to eternal principles. (As environmental law emerged, I learned that we also reconnect with the Earth.)

My father worked on big cases while working at the Marysville office. Class-action farm-worker lawsuits. He worked with civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. I have many memories of fields and festivities, of banners, music, megaphoned voices, of la huelga. We had wonderful gatherings in the big, old farm house we rented that rose up wearily from the sea of orchards. And as a child I was infinitely fascinated by the lawyer-comrades who came to eat and drink, propound and engage. Sometimes, my father would sing. Once, I remember a wrestling match between my father and a colleague. It was never boring. I loved that they always wanted to hear what I had to say.

The riches uncovered in that fertile turbulence were of tremendous psychological value. I draw on it today. My dreams of a universal justice system based in Ulanbaatar; my dreams of an international law that reflects all legal traditions; my dreams of a cultural awakening reconciling the human race with the Divine Source–all these dreams derive from these early experiences. I draw on their capital as I plan, look for fuel, strategize, connect with like-minded people in Mongolia, Austria, Japan, Russia and elsewhere. As I have said to my father several times: “The project in Mongolia is just like CRLA, but on a global scale!” He smiles somewhat nervously at this, for he is aware of the teaming challenges to come.

Behind the nervousness, he is a committed warrior.

In the spring of that year (1971), my mother was sitting in the window sill on the second floor (probably listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)when the broad side of the house was struck by a bullet at some distance from the window. She looked curiously at the point of impact then calmly withdrew to the interior of the house. My sister and I were told it was a stray hunting bullet.

The Great Unifier


I am a great believer in international law. I believe that the world would be a better place if international law were universally embraced and upheld. Moreover, I believe that the principles underlying international law spring from sources that are universal. One may ascribe it to my upbringing or my nature, nevertheless, to me international law is nothing less than a process of revelation, emanating from the divine source. To my mind, international law is a massive, cosmic inspiration. Looking at Hindu, Judaic, Islamic, Confucian, Western or Indigenous sources of law, one is struck by the deep similarities at the philosophical level. It is clear that at bedrock, we are talking about the same things and that we care equally about the fate of our world and about each other. Every legal tradition attests to a communion with the source of all wisdom. The light of justice, though it may pass through glass of varying colors, is traced to a single source.

The resulting image is dazzling, even in its present imperfect form. And yet, it is not final. Nor is it a mere image. It is a living proposition forever illuminated by a living source. International law is a process. A process of discovery and revelation. And I believe it has an objective source, one that is located simultaneously within us and without us. When we tune to it we experience harmony, both within and without. My mentor, Prof. Yutaka Tajima says that “law is a tool to persuade people to resolve disputes.” I see this tool as a kind of tuning mechanism whereby we may, through trial and error, come into closer proximity with the grand harmonic scheme. Justice is a process of attention. It divides this attention between the issue at hand (usually discordant) and the experience of perfect pitch that inheres in each of us. It uses law a way of resolving discord into harmony. And just as the laws of musical harmony are universal and immutable, so too is justice hard-wired into our living matrix. When we tune to it, the harmonies we create generate energies of their own and society flourishes.

Theorists point to striking dichotomies in comparing the different sources of law. This provokes questions: Are human rights more properly a matter of protecting individuals or guaranteeing collective success? Which category of rights is primary: political or socio-economic? Do human rights spring from sacred or secular sources? These questions have stimulated much debate. These debates are the bread and butter of many a legal theorist. But more interesting to me is the overarching theme of justice. Whatever their differences, all judicial traditions attempt to balance the needs of individuals with collective stability. All attempt to balance the priorities of survival with notions of freedom of individual will. And, ultimately, it may not be terribly important whether the spirit of international law is essentially religious or secular positivist. For me, in all honesty, justice is more basic than either. We are standing on very good ground when we affirm and uphold it.

I believe that international law ultimately unites us all. That it will is my dream. What obstructs is simply the failure to avail ourselves of the tools. Currently the prerogatives of power seem to obviate any consideration of justice. Yet, where people have taken up the tools of law in earnest, harmony has inevitably prevailed. And the resonances produced instill hope for all. So we must listen carefully to the music around us for we are, each and collectively, custodians of universal harmony.
My belief that international law is the answer to the existential challenges we face as a planet has urged me to take action. A few years ago, I started doing research and writing for my father, Prof. Philip Jimenez (Santa Clara University School of Law). Researching Japanese-US relations, I was struck by, to paraphrase Napoleon, “the inability of force to organize anything.” That is, hegemony ultimately fails to produce stability. A respectful friendship between the two countries requires the latitude to disagree. Friendships that can endure no balancing are ultimately unstable. US hegemonic force has been unable to to order the region in the way that a respectful partnership might. As a result of these conclusions, we presented a very effective case at Seikei University for reordering US-Japan relations. Success there spurred me on. And Japan became my spiritual-legal-philosophical adoptive country.

Perhaps it was Prof. Tajima’s statement that “the essence of law is unspoken” that freed me to entertain the idea that beneath the disparate forms of jurisprudence, we ultimately come together in tacit understanding. Certainly, the Japanese emphasis on emptiness does allow for the kind of constructive negativism that the heated debates of the West cannot afford. I feel profoundly lucky to have found my legal purpose in Japan.

The more I researched the more I became enticed by the dream of an all-inclusive summary of law that will “universalize” international law and allow its majestic norms to moderate and guide our human family. I was tasked to write a paper to be included in a Festschrift in honor of our dear family friend Prof. Kim Moon Hwan who was stepping down as president of Kookmin University in Seoul. My father gave me great freedom to pursue any course that I saw fit. I suggested writing about what I termed the “justice vaccuum”–a situation wherein justice is a rare commodity existing in a troubled space, producing a malaise consisting of cynicism and hopelessness. I was writing about the international space. I was writing about the stark absence of justice in the lives of so many. I wondered what needed to be done to strengthen the institutions and organs of international law. I wondered what needed to be done to bring the world into alignment with the laudable principles so fervently championed by the human rights movement and by passionate jurists everywhere and at all times. I began to see international law as an Archimedean lever, capable of moving the world. While the paper was deeply flawed, it nevertheless stimulated interest in addressing the problem, which was really my true intention.