Saturday, November 19, 2005

This isn't something I do very often, but I've done it now: I've changed my wallpaper. Monica (my desktop) now has a composite photograph of a Timber Wolf in the forest, while Danielle (my laptop) has a painting of a Jade Falcon Mad Dog at dusk.

I came across an old poem I wrote in high school (back when I still wrote poetry), probably in response to something that happened at youth group, and it's got me thinking about the Jade Falcons again. I have a lot of heroes that I identify with, but few so old as the Falcons. I'm not even sure that anybody who reads this knows what Clan Jade Falcon is, with the exception of course of Xenophon and his brother. But most people will probably recognize the names of Marthe Pryde (the Falcon Khan) and Aidan Pryde (one of the Clan's greatest heroes). The Falcon ethos means a lot to me, but for present purposes let us just say that the Clans are a warrior society loosely patterned on the "barbarian" Mongols.

The other day, when I was contemplating that poem, I came across the following excerpt from a Jade Falcon poem. The soldier and Founder of the Jade Falcon clan, Elizabeth Hazen, is in a hopeless position on the field of battle and sees a vision of her old jade falcon, Turkina, long dead. Finding Major Hazen in despair and ready to die, Turkina has this to say: You trained from birth to be a warrior. To turn your back on your destiny because you are frightened or sick of the hunt is an abomination against nature.

Now of course most of you won't know this, but Elizabeth Hazen did not train from birth to be a warrior. Clan children do (if they belong to the warrior caste), but Hazen herself was just a regular soldier. The Falcons rewrote this little bit of history, because it was important that their Founder resemble the ruling caste of modern Clan society. Elizabeth Hazen was not born into the warrior caste, but she is treated as if she was. I was not born into the warrior caste either, but Jesus treats me that way. By grace my past is wiped away and I am given a new name, a new identity, a new heritage. By grace I have trained from birth to be a warrior.

Why is this important? People sometimes ask me if I enjoy law school, and I feel like frequently there is a subtext of whether I am doing this for the right reasons. It is usually out of concern, of course - they have heard horror stories about law school and the firm life that awaits beyond, and they want to be sure I'll be okay. I appreciate that. But it bothers me sometimes that I feel more anxious about law school than I did about, say, being a classics major.

What I realized in rediscovering the Falcons is this: just because you have trained for this from birth doesn't mean you won't be scared when it comes. Even Elizabeth Hazen was scared; all soldiers are. For those of us who only fight digital battles, sometimes we forget how uncertain battle really is. When I lead armies in Rome: Total War, I almost always win because I know better than to pick a fight that isn't over before it begins. When I adventure in World of WarCraft, I know better than to take on an opponent who isn't doomed before the first blow is struck. But of course real battle doesn't work that way, as I know quite well intellectually. In real life, you frequently have to take on fights where the outcome is uncertain.

I am in one of those fights now. Much as a medical student must apply to medical school before she has ever had a patient's life or well-being in her hands, I don't know if I like lawyers' work because I haven't done it. Not enough of it, anyway. I enjoy law school, certainly - but I am also scared. Scared because the stakes are higher now than they have ever been, because the reward to effort ratio is lower than it has ever been, scared because I am more on my own than I have ever been. That colors my enjoyment of the experience, and is at the heart of the ambivalence that is sometimes present when I answer whether or not I enjoy law school.

There are two grand things about it, though. First, real adventures have to be uncertain. If they aren't, they are only imaginary adventures where we control all the pieces. Where else can I experience the joy of adventure unless I go into a battle whose outcome I cannot see? The uncertainty is necessary. Second, just because it's scary doesn't mean I'm in the wrong place. It is scary, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't born for this. Putting those two things together - the uncertainty of the outcome and the certainty that I am in the right battle - are also necessary. For where else can I experience the joy of faith except in those circumstances?