Tagged: writing

The need for good prose.

“You would have no confidence in a carpenter whose tools were dull and rusty. Lawyers possess only one tool to convey their thoughts: language. They must acquire and hone the finest, most effective version of that tool available. They must love words and use them exactly. – Scalia and Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges

Just this year I moved out my personal library into the living room and filled the shelves in my room with law books. Before the move, I could see Hemingway, Marquez, Lewis, and Tolkien whenever I walked inside my room from a tough day at school. Now one of the shelves is filled up with Civil Law Commentaries of JBL Reyes and Tolentino, the maroon sentinels who watch over my room. It’s definitely more convenient but proportionately more boring. It’s not that those civil law authors write badly, perhaps it just a longing for some variety. It’s not like I would pick up one of Tolentino’s volumes one Sunday afternoon, brew a cup of coffee and read about the validity of auto-contracts. But I would pick up The Sun Also Rises just to read one chapter about bullfights.

I have this lurking suspicion that law school is systematically exposing us to bad writing and not giving a damn about it. Every class we are assigned cases to read, some short and some long. I would assume though that these cases are assigned for their doctrines and illustrations and not for their writing. And the irritating part is that most of the decisions are so badly written. Legalese might sound intellectual on paper, maybe even  comprehensible, but it simply sounds ridiculous in spoken English. Lawyers also have a tendency towards verbosity. Everything seems to be longer when a lawyer writes it: emails, texts, you name it.

Back in freshman year, I cannot remember if any of these turned up in Legal Method. All I remember is trying to figure out what the parts of  decision were and what some Latin maxims meant.

It’s just a bit funny how every class crams so much content that’s all readily available in this or that reviewer. Cases come and go but most of them are forgotten just as soon as the class is over. And there’s nothing special in remembering doctrines without the good writing to express it. Alas, that’s not included in the Bar coverage and therefore, the school doesn’t care.

Back to zero.

Africa was where he had been happiest in the good time of his life, so he had come out here to start again. They had made this safari with the minimum of comfort. There was no hardship; but there was no luxury and he had thought that he could get back into training that way. That in some way he could work the fat off his soul the way a fighter went into the mountains to work and train in order to burn it out of his body.”

– Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Back to zero. All my posts are gone – relegated to some nether realm in cyberspace or stored away in some vacant space in memory laced with cobwebs and perfumed with the aroma of bittersweet nostalgia. They are all gone, but not without some purpose. They were the past or, in a relative way, the present since 2009. Whether present or past, their ghosts still linger and creep and hang their ugly faces at times when I least expect them. There were poems never recited and letters never sent: all left under the indiscriminate gaze of the web. They had been at the mercy of prying eyes and loose tongues which, for a while and even if they were imaginary, did not matter so much. That was the case for a while, and then I felt like everything had to change. The realization came about in two ways: “gradually and then suddenly” as Hemingway would say again. In any case, indulging a little more in the virtue of discretion never did hurt anybody.

Since 2009 when I left for France I had around 300 entries and after reading snippets of them, they all were colored with different voices. I could not notice if there was a change in tone since it all happened gradually until maybe a year later when nostalgia gets the better of me and I end up reading my past entries. It’s scary sometimes, really. From cynicism, sarcasm, candor, hopefulness to angst, despair, bitterness, and sorrow. The voices cycle through the rough seas of surviving abroad for four months, graduating college, making my way into the work force, and back into school for law studies. To hell with all of them.

The abrupt overhaul of the blog could perhaps be attributed to a need for an absolution. Or perhaps it’s an effect of shame. But in any case, it’s a need to begin again. It is a clean slate and a much needed one at that. Law school: an environment racked with stress and restless twentysomethings, gossip is undoubtedly a national pastime. A return to nothing is probably a good way to keep my past to myself and a fresh start is always good for the soul. Twenty five years already, a quarter of a century, and still those specters of teenage life linger like that pinch of hip fat that just won’t go away. Teenage spirits or hip fat – I can’t have that. So here’s the new, old blog. I’ve had the Tolkien quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” on my site for the longest time. I’ve always liked that quote and I’ve always thought visitors to this blog would be strangers given that I’m horrible with blog networking. I’ve always liked strangers who visit seemingly random blogs, those who read and appreciate the prose and poetry for what they are with a fresh and open heart. Let the work speak for itself, maybe. But no, apparently that’s not the case these days. Right now, it’s another Hemingway quote from Kilimanjaro. The image of a writer dying of gangrene in Africa with the sound of hyenas in the background is quite appealing. Well, I guess in a law student kind of way.