Tuesday, September 7, 2004

While on my trip, I got a call from an old colleague of mine. He wanted to "do lunch".

I had almost forgotten how attorneys "do lunch". I haven't practiced law in almost five years, and the mellow world of consulting had dulled the memory of it.

First of all, you show up late.
Secondly, you arrive talking on your cell phone. Throughout the meal, the phone should ring constantly. A sidenote on the phone etiquette: Answer each call with snyde remarks or ironfisted arguments, delivered with malevolence. Every call must end in a "victory", preferably leaving someone maimed, somewhere.
Thirdly, strive to show how much better you are doing in the rat race than your lunch company is. Talk about the length of your new boat. Your newest SUV. Your big summer house.
And finally: Just, whatever you do, do not talk about how you are feeling. I mean really feeling. No talking about your dreams, your anxieties or, God forbid, your love. Don't mention your children, except in passing, and never, ever admit that you would really like to spend more time with them.

In short, be the cold, heartless bastard that people expect a trial lawyer to be. Because how else can you protect yourself from those that are out to get you?

Yes, how indeed.

First off, it has to be said that there are many fields of the law where practicing does not require abandoning your humanity. You have these more tranquil spaces where court battles resemble tea parties. At least compared to where the stakes are routinely high.

This colleague of mine commented that I seemed to have lost my ruthlessness. I don't think he meant that as a complement. The remark was delivered in a sad tone, almost with remorse. I kind of shrugged it off at the time, but it got me thinking.

And I have been thinking about it.

Maybe I have changed. At least I would like it if it meant that fewer people think I am a cold-hearted bastard. Yes, I have done things in the past, especially professionally, which I probably would do differently today. But why?

I didn't have time until now to figure this out. This morning when I woke up, with a slight touch of hangover, it dawned on me, I think.

I have, probably mostly unconsciously, stopped bothering with people that are bad. Yes, I know. No-one is all-bad. And I totally believe that (note that I did not believe that a few years ago). I need to believe that. But I mean 'bad' as in 'having seriously bad intentions' or 'wanting to hurt someone'. The world is full of people that choose to live that way, and I simply do not have time in my short life to spend on them. Which would explain some drastic career moves a few years ago. And my choice of friends. Cold people do not interest me. At least not anymore. I am stuck on good people. Those of beautiful hearts. And especially those that try to hide that beauty with a rough presence, boorishly brushing you away, desperatly trying to keep from getting exposed, hurt. They may be quiet, they may be loud, but they do not tell you things they do not mean. This kind I am drawn to. Hopelessly. It is their charm that leaves me defenseless. Maybe because after getting past the defense mechanism, I feel I get a truer, more honest response. Or maybe because their trust is unconditional, once earned. And that honors me.

Now you may ask: But can you divide between the wicked and the guarded? The bad and the badly behaved? Aren't we all the same? No! We are not. There are corrupt people in this world, people that want to do bad. They want to hurt. They enjoy inflicting pain. Revel in the misery they cause to others. I have to believe they still have the potential to be otherwise, but that side of them has more often than not been silenced a long time ago. So they thrive on dominating other people, in some form or another. And that is evil, pure and simple.

On the other hand, you have the rough ones. The attitute ones. The 'I don't give a flying ... what you think' ones. Why are they so defiant? It is simple, really. For the most part, they crave justice. And freedom. For all. They loathe pretense. And stupidity. And flashiness. And kow-towing to the norm, just because others do it. Anything that sounds like 'that's not proper' does not fly with them. In short, anything without a heart turns them off. So they react. And that puts them in a dilemma. And here is the fundamental difference: They care. They really do not want to hurt. They derive no pleasure from inflicting pain. But they still have this defence mechanism, which can catch people off-guard, even stun them. And they may have longings, dreams, desires which clash with the life they are leading. The corrupt would not give it a second though. But the pure of heart would. They desperately do not want to hurt. Hence the dilemma.

I guess hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back, I think I see myself slowly turning from a professionally banausic existence towards adopting a truly libertarian disposition, shouldering my responsibility as a human being to change this world for the better, instead of expecting other people, or the government, or just anybody else to do it for me. My contribution may be small, but my heart is true. And to take this journey with me, I have chosen the best people. The good. The righteous. The kind.