Sic Parvis Magna
I recently finished playing Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It’s was a fantastic game overall. Gameplay was nothing out of the ordinary, but the world is beautifully crafted, the music is full and really gets the moods going, and the story is strongly character driven, yet over the top. It’s like living through the Indiana Jones movies of my youth.
Good things have been happening lately. I don’t really believe in knocking on wood, because I think that these good things are an intersection between hard work and luck. But maybe I should knock just in case? I got my fourth invitation to a first round interview a couple of days ago. That means that I have four chances at clerkships, which is pretty big, considering the market is pretty shitty right now. (Australia’s economy isn’t doing so well.) Mind you, interview are not a guarantee of anything. It’s just chances.
But perhaps that’s all I need.
In Uncharted, the protagonist of the story has an heirloom ring with an inscription: “sic parvis magma.” It roughly translates from Latin to “greatness from small beginnings.”
It made me think about how different I am from who I was in the past. I’ve sorted myself out in many ways. I’ve been doings things the way that I want. And yet, I’ve come to want good things for myself, as well as others. I think I’ve grown to be of stronger moral fibre, and having my foundations set right has let me make strong moves outwards into the world. I’ve learned to channel my energy and obsessiveness a bit better in socially acceptable ways, and in ways that benefit those around me as well. [CM] tells me that from studying clinical psychology, they call this practice “sublimation.”
I think that given lots of possibilities for different ways of doing things, it all started with making better choices in life. I think that I am getting to that point where I have learned to apologise for the things I’ve done wrong, but I understand that feeling guilty about anything never helps– mostly what matters is moving forward. It’s not that the ends always justify the means, but if it’s done, it’s done, and there ought to be some benefit derived from it. If you’ve done wrong by anyone, then either make it up to them, or at least gain something from the sacrifice you’ve made of them.
I was talking to CM recently about the entourages that we keep. I noted that I don’t hang around losers by choice anymore. At the same time, I don’t hang around people who are unhealthy for me. I think a lot of becoming who I am today has been about trimming the fat, and making conscious efforts to cut out bad habits– and that includes hanging around people with bad habits who will only drag me down. I had to learn to let go of the comforts of what were ultimately self-destructive behaviours. It was almost like a magic forumula– suddenly I had time to engage in the things that I really wanted to do, or at least, to fight in pursuit of what I wanted.
About a month ago, I was asked to give a welcoming speech to the new Juris Doctors. A JD is what you call law school graduates when you finish our particular postgrad degree. There were two faculty members who gave speeches, as well as another postgrad student who spoke at the event. There was a common theme to the speeches that they gave: this is a great school, this is a great opportunity, and you will have a great time.
My presentation was the last thing before we broke out the food and wine, but my message was somewhat different.
“You’ve heard a lot of things about services at this law school, like the LIbrary, Law Society, the teachers, etc. But there’s a lot of services in upper campus you should be aware of as well,” I explained. “Psychological services is one of them. And I’m serious. You have a wonderful opportunity here– but the stress could get you before you make full use of this opportunity.”
I went on to explain a lot of harsh realities about law school as I saw it, which in a way was just advice about life in general. It included taking the time to do something other than school to keep your mind balanced and capable of happiness. I reminded them that they needed to take care of their personal health, and take care of the health of those around them.
I pointed out that it was important be adventurous, and to brave trusting people.
I also told them to read. Law is based on precedents– as such, a lot of the cases we red are often old ones. And even new ones, if they’re of any importance, someone on the internet has probably written something about it. Case summaries and commentaries basically. But at the end of the day, you cannot pretend that you know how to read. Reading what you find on the internet, instead of reading the cases directy in all their complexity, is cheating yourself.
What separates the people who are truly good at things from the people who are just on cruise control are the habits. Excellence isn’t a single result– it’s a way of life, and it is fraught with frustration and hardship.
A number of students approached me after the talk, and said that frankly, my talk had scared them a bit.
A strange turn of events had one of those new students from that welcoming event asking me for advice. Next thing I know… I’m running a mentoring group. It started off as one person, and now it seems that I’ve got about 10 of them who I’m meeting on a weekly basis.
The thing about mentoring these first semester students is that it gives me a pretty interesting view of something that is normally difficult to notice– how much I know now, compared to when I started just a couple of years ago. They represent a snapshot of hisotry– analogous to my own history– and the questions that they’re asking of me force me to remember just what choices I made to get to where I am.
It is always difficult to see what is possible in the future– but in retrospect, it’s always nice to see the small beginnings.