Friday, May 28, 2004

So the end of the year is approaching, and I feel like I ought to blog about that (someone pointed out to me that "so" as a transitional particle is distinctly Californian - or at least not Southern. This has had the fortuitous side effect that I am now amused every time I or somebody else says "so").

I am proud to be graduating, which sort of surprises me, since I don't regularly feel comfortable applying the term "proud" to myself with reference to any of my so-called accomplishments. I am regularly pleased with the course of my life, but when you come right down to it it's not like I really did anything. This is clearly where the Lord's plan for me led, and therefore doing Stanford is nothing more than my duty - and I hardly see how it is meritorious to do what is expected of you. Besides, it's not as if I have been "successful" here (as I'm sure lots of silly adults will tell you I've been - and I have been successful here, but not for the reasons most people would imagine) as a result of my natural talents or even my hard work. I have been sucessful here because God allowed me to be, which in my book means that my contribution doesn't count as anything meritorious or something to be proud of (yes, I'm an Arminian).

But of course, in another sense, fulfilling my duty is something I can be proud of, I think. This is because on the Natalian/Heinleinian sense of duty (see sidebar) what i have done is refuse to betray myself. I made the decision to be obedient, and at the end of the day I have not turned my back on that debt that I owe myself. And somewhere in there is something that I am proud of.

I'm curious about what law school is going to be like. Some people tell me it will be hard, and yet the image I get of Stanford Law is not that it is hard. I should mention at this point that "hard" in a scholastic context means something different to me than "challenging." My view on what it would mean for school to be "hard" was shaped thirteen years ago by the following passage from the Song of the Lioness:

"Face it," Gary told her kindly. "You'll never catch up. You just do as much as you can and take the punishments without saying anything. Sometimes I wonder if that isn't what they're really trying to teach us - to take plenty and keep our mouths shut."

Alanna was in no mood to consider this idea. When she returned to her rooms that night, she was tired, nervous, and upset. "Pack your things," she ordered Coram as she marched in the door. "We're going home."

Coram looked at her. He had been sitting on his bed, cleaning his sword. "We are?"

Alanna paced the room. "I can't do this," she told the manservant. "The pace will kill me. No one can live this way all the time. I won't -"

"I never figured ye for a quitter," Coram interrupted softly.

"I'm not quitting!" Alanna snapped. "I - I'm protesting! I'm protesting unfair treatment - and - and being worked till I drop. I want to have time to myself. I want to learn to fight with a sword
now, not when they decide. I want -"

"Ye want. Ye want. 'Tis something different ye're learning here. It's called 'discipline.' The world won't always order itself the way
ye want. Ye have to learn discipline."

"This isn't discipline! It's inhuman! I can't live with it, and I won't! Coram, I gave you an order! Pack your things!"

Coram carefully scrubbed a tiny bit of dirt off his gleaming sword. At last he put it down, carefully, on the bed. With a groan he knelt down and reached under the bed, dragging out his bags. "As ye say," he replied. "But I thought I'd raised ye with somethin' to ye. I didn't think I was bringin' up another soft noble lady -"

"I'm not a soft noble lady!" Alanna cried. "But I'm not crazy, either! I'm going from sunrise to sunset and after without a stop, and no end in sight. My free time's a joke - I'm out of free time before I get to the third class of the morning. And they expect me to keep up, and they punish me if I don't. And I have to learn how to fall; I'm learning the stance with the bow all over again when I was the best hunter at Trebond, and if I say
anything I get more work!"

Coram knelt on the floor, looking at her. "Ye knew it'd be hard when ye decided to come," he reminded her. "No one ever told ye a knight had it easy.
I didn't, for certain. I told ye 'twas naught but hard work every wakin' minute, and a lot of extra wakin' minutes to boot. And now ye're runnin' away after just two days of it."

That is what "hard" means to me. I have never experienced anything close to what Alanna and Keladry did: wake up before dawn, work all day, study all evening, sleep after sundown, repeat. Hard is waking up early to study and spending all day in the law library on two meals a day so you can spend all evening writing papers, all so you can go to sleep late and do it again. Really hard would be if that wasn't enough to maintain something approximating my customary grades.

Will law school be like that? Some people imply that it will, and it's possible that this time they're right. I have a hard time believing it, though - probably more because it's never happened to me than because it's an inherently implausible picture. But if it is, then it is, and that's all there is to it. That is what I like so much about Alanna and her story: it reminds me that just because something is unfair doesn't mean you don't have to do it. Because the conditions Tortall imposes on its knights are unfair - but they need to be if those knights are going to learn to live in and rise above a world which is unfair. If my path leads into a period like that I don't see how the rules change just because I am not training to be a martial artist.

As far as the actual process of graduation, this time around is very different from the last time I graduated from something. Probably this is because there are no APs in college, and therefore the year ends in fact when the year ends in name. There is no post-AP refractory period in which there is nothing but a few weeks between me and graduation. Instead there will be a few days - and in the meantime there is still work to be done. As a result, I am not thinking of graduation very much. It doesn't loom over my life like it does for some people - why, I don't know.

Perhaps it is because of this that I am not worried about things like which friendships will be maintained and which will not. Of course, with the exception of Shanah, all of my friends are going to be here next year. That probably helps a lot too. Still, it is useful to reflect, as I recently did briefly with a friend who doesn't have a blogname yet, on the latest in the litany of girls who have done their part, consciously or unconsciously, in healing the fourteen-year wound: Blue Rose, Esther Selene, and Shanah Van, my erroneously blognamed Sweatshirt Girl. Add Chariessa to that list, somehow. Dear friends.

This post is getting pretty long (even if it contains a long quote, which in my opinion shouldn't count) so I'll just finish by observing that I have once again been reminded of the songs I hope to dance to at my wedding reception (of course, who knows if there will even be dancing at my wedding reception). Some of them would include multiple dances, and I don't think this is a complete list. But for some reason I find myself thinking wistfully of the future, and instead of thinking about graduation I think about dancing on an empty floor with a wonderful woman to:

It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing, Shania Twain
Martyrs & Thieves, Jennifer Knapp
I'm Speechless, Avalon
In A Different Light, Avalon
Stolen Kiss, Ronan Hardiman
Siamsa, Ronan Hardiman
Erin Shore, The Corrs

There are others, of course, that I wouldn't be happy to have excluded. But these (and probably a few that I've forgotten) are special. One day.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Over the weekend I saw Troy for the second time, but the first time in a real theater (with a real audience, which means one that didn't make a sexual innuendo out of everything). This post isn't going to discuss the movie, but I liked it a lot. I feel somewhat uniquely qualified to say that, since I can speak as a veteran roleplayer who interacts with the conventions of modern fantasy on a regular basis and as a classics major who has read substantial portions of the Iliad in the original and who also spends a lot of time thinking about Greek warfare. Speaking from that perspective, I liked the movie a lot. If you didn't - and especially if you didn't because you were one of those people who thought they were making a movie out of the Iliad instead of picking up the tradition of telling stories about the Trojan War (the tradition within which the Iliad is situated) - come talk to me, and I'll see if I can't set you straight.

What I really wanted to talk about was a line that Thetis has to Achilles: she tells him that if he stays in Phthia, he will find a wonderful woman, he will have sons and daughters, and they will love him and remember his name - and when his children are dead, and their children, then his name will be forgotten.

Now of course because Achilles is Achilles he foregoes that option in his quest for kleos aphthiton. And that's a very important part of Achilles that I felt the movie makers understood very well and I'm not going to comment on that since it is basically the central issue of the movie.

But it got me thinking: I too am going to find a wonderful woman (or at least I'm planning to), and I too will have sons and daughters who will love me. And when I am dead they will speak my name to their children - but when my children are dead and my children's children, then my name will be lost to history. I have no plans to perform great deeds that will leave my name to generations of academics, lawyers, or readers. Of course I may, but I am not looking for it.

What is interesting to me about this is that I do not especially want my name to be remembered. Now of course it is easier for me to say that than Achilles, because I am a Christian and as such I consider human beings immortal. But even so ... Achilles wanted to be remembered forever. I will be content if my name is forgotten, so long as my actions echo through the rest of my race. If I raise mighty sons and daughters in a family that is a picture of the godhead, and if they pass that legacy on to their sons and daughters ... what could be more glorious than that, to raise a family whose members will be remembered by those who encounter them because Christ is formed in them?

My children will hear great tales of the family their grandparents forged, and with God's help they will see that their own family is what it is because of their mighty grandparents. And I dream that my children will also raise Godly families, the sorts of families that change the world by being. My grandchildren will probably not know much about my parents. Perhaps they will not even be sure if their great-grandparents were Christian. And the same may be true of my great-grandchildren. But the legacy will remain, and I am content with that.