Death does not equate to courage

That all mankind are born to die

This is a picture that I took back in 1996 before I started law school. I was interested in my family history. While I was out a graveyard where my paternal grandfather and grandmother were buried, I found this tombstone with this engraving on it. It reads,

“Remember friends as you pass by,
That all mankind are born to die
Then let your cares
on Christ be cast
That you may dwell
with him at last.”

The reason that I post this picture is that it reminded me of a blog post that I came across lately from an attorney in Chicago. The attorney’s name is  Mr. Marcus L. Schantz, and in this blog post, he did a review of how 2010 treated him. You can read it here. What really caught my attention from the article and what shares a commonality with my photo is when Mr. Schantz referenced a scene from “Band of Brothers,” where a Captain tells a scared private that in order to function as a solider, the private must accept that he is already dead. Here is the scene that he is referring to:

I believe that Mr. Schantz was trying to take from this that somehow accepting one’s mortality now is a mechanism to become a better criminal defense lawyer because you will operate free from the constraints of fear. I respectfully disagree.

To paraphrase the Joker from “The Dark Knight,” people show you they really are in their last moments. Some people are cowards; some people are courageous; some people are tranquil; some people fight to the bitter end; some people are paralyzed with fear knowing that their life is soon to be over. By the same token, not every criminal defense lawyer will become a better advocate simply by accepting that he is already dead. Some may not do the necessary work to help a client because if he is already dead, then what does it matter or what it will matter in the years to come?

Being a criminal defense lawyer is a lot of things. One of them is accepting that it is scary work. We see the worst that society has to offer on a daily basis. It is not for the faint of heart. It is work that would make any sane person scared. However, the antidote to fear is not death, the absence of life; the antidote is courage. Here are two of my favorite quotes about courage.

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.
Eddie Rickenbacker (1890 – 1973)

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)


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