There was, no doubt, some scratching of heads when it was reported recently that Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was taking a small role in a summer production of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Ginsburg, after all, is an iconic jurist who has done more than her fair share to shape the law and public policy during her 23-year career on the Supreme Court. She is taking to the stage as part of Venetian celebrations of the 500th anniversary of that city’s Jewish ghetto.
Not surprisingly, Ginsburg will play a judge that presides over the trial of Shylock, a Jewish moneylender in 16th-century Venice whose thirst for revenge against the pervasive anti-Semitism of the times drives the play’s narrative. (The production has taken some liberties to include Ginsburg; in the original play, the Duke of Venice presides over Shylock’s trial.)
The reality is that Ginsburg’s theatrical foray should not be that surprising. She is a noted patron of the arts and has always maintained a very busy schedule, involving many public appearances, during her time on the country’s highest court.
She, and other Supreme Court justices as well, do a lot of public speaking and contribute their time and gravitas to many charitable events. Ginsburg has even been a guest DJ on a Chicago classical music radio station.
However, Ginsburg has also transcended her role as jurist to become a pop culture icon. In recent years, she has acquired the moniker “Notorious R.B.G.,” on social media channels like Tumblr and meme, and a book by the same name. You can now purchase coffee mugs and t-shirts emblazoned with the nickname and an image of Ginsburg wearing a crown.
What do Ginsburg’s extra curricular activities tell us about our own lives? Quite frankly, that we all benefit from being multi-dimensional.
Many of us have a tendency to focus solely on our careers. At some level that makes sense; after all, we need to earn a living, provide for our families, and plan for our lives after retirement. However, focusing too much on career can ultimately be career limiting.
Finding recreational activities or creative outlets outside of work will, ultimately, make you better at your job. No one can perform at peak efficiency when they are immersed in work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Anytime we focus on any one thing for too long, our capacity to perform begins to suffer. We will become fatigued, both mentally and physically, and ultimately bitter and resentful about the way our jobs are eclipsing our lives. That is not a recipe for success.
Ginsburg reminds us that life is about balance, and that part of balance is finding ways to have fun outside of work so that when we are in the office, we are approaching our jobs with energy and a clear mind.
We are, and must always continue to be, more than just our jobs.