Overwhelmed? Try Copying The Constitution

As a vata with an inclination toward crowd anxiety, I knew I couldn’t demonstrate against “45,” the president whose name exhausted me. I admired #resist posts on social media, especially when brave souls backed up words with protests, but my power lay in quieter actions. My restless mind couldn’t even sort out what to wear: pink, red? Safety pins represented ally-ism one day and a hollow gesture the next.

On Inauguration Day, I took my racing thoughts to the New York Public Library. Under the 52-foot ceiling of the Rose Main Reading Room, I passed a selection of Jack Kerouac journals and breathed in the musty scent. To my left, I encountered a small group hand-copying the U.S. Constitution. Their sign said they would stay until closing to write out our governing legislation, a 229-year-old document that is the oldest continuously used constitution in the world.

The original signers

A self-proclaimed history nerd, I nodded to the organizer, a trim woman in her 70s. Then I settled into a heavy wooden chair that moaned as I scooted closer to our table. With a marker, I sketched “We the People,” trying to match the dramatic gothic strokes.

Calm swept through my entire body. My bones sank downward, making me feel present and focused. I continued with the preamble I used to know by heart. Without thinking, I chose cursive, so different from thumb-typing onto a device. In my head, I heard the rich voice of my 7th grade teacher whose passion turned each word into a poem:

… in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity ...

Warmth passed through my fingertips. I stole glances at the document with the other participants, and noticed the gleam in their eyes. After a year of hurtful campaign coverage, the language we copied felt harmonious. Yet our meeting felt rebellious.

“I always go the other way,” said Ana Marton, a New York-based architect and American citizen since the 1970s. As Marton worked on the Amendments, she said felt a Zen-like pull to it. “This is experiential,” she said. “When you see a road from the plane, you don’t see the pebbles.”