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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

October 4, 2005


Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:25 pm

The Death of Ivan Ilyich is Leo Tolstoy‘s most famous short story.  Written

in 1886, the 60-page novella is considered a classic portrayal of dying and 

suffering.   However, this story of a respected judge, who becomes ill

and dies at age forty-five, is much more.  It is a cautionary tale about the

choices we make, and don’t make, in our lives, with a message that needs

to be heard (more than once) and seriously considered by everyone, including

members of our often “unhappy and unhealthylegal profession, and by those

contemplating a legal career.  


TolstoyLeo  Tolstoy opens the story with the line: “Ivan Ilych’s life had been

most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”  One critic

“Ivan, the protagonist, followed a well-traveled road, adhering to

‘comme il faut’ (as is expected) or doing what one was supposed

to do in career matters, selection of clothes, choosing a wife, raising


In keeping with our ongoing “self-assessment” campaign [e.g., see here

(aimed at 1L’s; here (aimed at all law students and recent grads); here

(Homework for those considering law school); and here (for practicing

lawyers)], you can consider this another plea to take stock of your own

values and priorities (not those of your parents, classmates, or the

profession or society in general), and then choose to be true to yourself.



Reading or re-reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich should get you in the  

mood to stop procrastinating and start finding out who you really are.  

Indeed, now that The Classical Library has posted a convenient,

free, online version of the short novel, you are out of excuses.




Please, let me assure you, this assignment won’t be torture.  Tolstoy’s

skillful depiction of the desperation and shallowness (and spousal

aggravation) in Ilyich’s life makes for great reading.  Lawyer’s will enjoy

small touches, such as the judge’s realization, when he first goes to

a doctor for his stomach pain that “It was all just as it was in the law

courts. The doctor put on just the same air towards him as he himself

put on towards an accused person.”  Later, when he’s on his deathbed

and the doctor puts Ilyich through a complicated examination, the

narrator tells us:

“Ivan Ilych knows quite well and definitely that all this is

nonsense and pure deception, but when the doctor, getting

down on his knee, leans over him, putting his ear first higher

then lower, and performs various gymnastic movements over

him with a significant expression on his face, Ivan Ilych submits

to it all as he used to submit to the speeches of the lawyers,

though he knew very well that they were all lying and why they

were lying.”

Ivan Ilyich’s desperate life — always doing what he considered his

“duty” and seeking “orderliness” — may seem far too drastic to be

relevant to your own.   But, there is a good bit of Ivan Illy, Esq., in

every lawyer caught up in the status to be gained from “success” in

the legal profession; in the fear of disappointing parents or spouse by

choosing less-travelled paths; or in the endless putting off self-assess-

ment and assertion, due to the attractions or necessity of everincreas-

ing income.  


I’ll leave you with a few (of the many) passages that may ring true to

you, and hopefully make you click through to Ilyich’s tale right now

and bookmark it.  (All emphases added.  The full story contains much

more character and ambiance development for your literary enjoyment.)


IlyichCover  From his early years:

Even when he was at the School of Law he was just what

he remained for the rest of his life: a capable, cheerful,

good-natured, and sociable man, though strict in the

fulfillment of what he considered to be his duty: and he

considered his duty to be what was so considered by those

in authority. Neither as a boy nor as a man was he a toady,

but from early youth was by nature attracted to people of

high station as a fly is drawn to the light, assimilating their

ways and views of life and establishing friendly relations

with them. All the enthusiasms of childhood and youth passed

without leaving much trace on him; he succumbed to sensuality,

to vanity, and latterly among the highest classes to liberalism,

but always within limits which his instinct unfailingly indicated

to him as correct.

At school he had done things which had formerly seemed to

him very horrid and made him feel disgusted with himself when

he did them; but when later on he saw that such actions were

done by people of good position and that they did not regard

them as wrong, he was able not exactly to regard them as right,

but to forget about them entirely or not be at all troubled at

remembering them.


After 17 years practicing law:

This was in 1880, the hardest year of Ivan Ilych’s life. It was

then that it became evident on the one hand that his salary

was insufficient for them to live on, and on the other that he

had been forgotten, and not only this, but that what was for

him the greatest and most cruel injustice appeared to others

a quite ordinary occurrence. Even his father did not consider

it his duty to help him. Ivan Ilych felt himself abandoned by

everyone, and that they regarded his position with a salary

of 3,500 rubles as quite normal and even fortunate. He alone

knew that with the consciousness of the injustices done him,

with his wife’s incessant nagging, and with the debts he had

contracted by living beyond his means,his position was far

from normal. 




Next day, despite many protests from his wife and her brother,

he started for Petersburg with the sole object of obtaining a

post with a salary of five thousand rubles a year. He was no

longer bent on any particular department, or tendency, or

kind of activity. All he now wanted was an appointment to

another post with a salary of five thousand rubles, either in

the administration, in the banks, with the railways in one of

the Empress Marya’s Institutions, or even in the customs —

but it had to carry with it a salary of five thousand rubles and

be in a ministry other than that in which they had failed to

appreciate him.


After the seriousness of his illness (probably stomach cancer)

became clear and Ilyich was in constant pain:

And in imagination he began to recall the best moments of

his pleasant life. But strange to say none of those best

moments of his pleasant life now seemed at all what they

had then seemed — none of them except the first recollections

of childhood. There, in childhood, there had been something

really pleasant with which it would be possible to live if it could

return.   But the child who had experienced that happiness

existed no longer, it was like a reminiscence of somebody else.  


As soon as the period began which had produced the present

Ivan Ilych, all that had then seemed joys now melted before his

sight and turned into something trivial and often nasty.  


And the further he departed from childhood and the nearer he

came to the present the more worthless and doubtful were the

joys. This began with the School of Law. A little that was really

good was still found there — there was light-heartedness,

friendship, and hope. But in the upper classes there had already

been fewer of such good moments. Then during the first years of

his official career, when he was in the service of the governor, some

pleasant moments again occurred: they were the memories of love

for a woman. Then all became confused and there was still less of

what was good; later on again there was still less that was good,

and the further he went the less there was.




. . .  then that deadly official life and those preoccupations about

money, a year of it, and two, and ten, and twenty, and always the

same thing. And the longer it lasted the more deadly it became.

“It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going

up. And that is really what it was. I was going up in public opinion,

but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. And now it

is all done and there is only death.


“Then what does it mean? Why? It can’t be that life is so senseless

and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless,

why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!


“Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done,” it suddenly occurred

to him. “But how could that be, when I did everything properly?”

he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole

solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite



. . . Why, and for what purpose, is there all this horror? But however

much he pondered he found no answer. And whenever the thought

occurred to him, as it often did, that it all resulted from his not having

lived as he ought to have done, he at once recalled the correctness

of his whole life and dismissed so strange an idea.

IlyichCoverN  When the death of Ivan Ilyich was very near: 

It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible

before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have

done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely

perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered

good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable

impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been

the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional duties

and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his

social and official interests, might all have been false. He tried to

defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness

of what he was defending. There was nothing to defend. [emphasis



someone else’s affair
you think…
lanterns for the dead


      translated by David G. Lanoue  


In the very near future, I will be set up a Career Choices/Changes Page,

listing resources that can help in the process of self-assessment. If you

feel the urge to start the process of getting to know yourself and your

career options better, you can find links to relevant materials in this post

and that post. 

tiny check  If you’d like to try a book that helped me

think about and act on taking charge of my own life and

emotions, see A Conscious Life: Cultivating the Seven

Qualities of Authentic Adulthood, by Fran Cox, Louis

Cox (Conari Press, 1995) (available used for cheap)


his quiet funeral —

a man who did

most of the talking

from frogpond XXVIII: 1




sweltering twilight

    a waft of cool air

from the graveyard





against the tombstone

with the faded name

homeless man rests

      George Swede 

       from Almost Unseen (2000)



funeral procession . . .

snowflakes blowing

into the headlights


         Randy Brooks

           from Vintage Haiku of Randy Brooks 



finally: morden enough

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:54 pm

It’s another day that was too good to stay indoors.

And, another day when I was stuck indoors glimpsing

the blue skies through closed windows. 


boy writing neg Although missing out on nature, I nonetheless

managed not to write an intended major posting, and am

very late with this daily haiku offering. 


I’d be stress out, except that two very good things

happened today:

First, after spending more than a year complaining

that there aren’t enough haiku for me to use from

our Honored Guest Matt Morden, I have discovered

a great source for Matt’s work: his brand-new weblog

(started two days ago, Oct. 2, 2005) named Morden Haiku

Although Matt is probably tired of puns on his surname,

I think the weblog name is just such a pun, as Matt  

combines photos with many of the poems (making

them haiga).  [It’s a good thing they’re aren’t any

trademark lawyers working for Modern Haiku!]

Here is the very first haiku at the site (click here

to see the accompanying photo), plus today’s

Morden Haiku posting (click for the photo-poem):




summer’s end
explosions in the gaps
between stars






a barrow of windfalls–

emptying out

apple-scented rain



And, for you,

a bonus pair:





a small hole dug

deep in an acorn







following fog

off the cold hill

remains of the moon




hermitage” – The Heron’s Nest (May 2001)

a barrow of windfalls–” The Heron’s Nest (Jan. 2002)

“following fog” – Snapshots #2 1988


Second, while doing a quick drive-by at The Legal Underground

I learned that the gracious, but (stubbornly) anonymous, Editor

of The Blawg Review has written a review of f/k/a, which was

post Oct. 2, 2005.  “Ed” focused on the lawyer-poetry connection,

which suits me just fine.  Thanks, Nameless One.



  • by dagosan                                               

oil prices

heading skyward

a hungry flock flies south



[Oct. 4, 2005]



tiny check Tort Geeks Festival! I’m sorry I missed the AEI Katrina liability   medbag

conference yesterday in D.C. and am looking forward to debriefings

from the participants, such as the host, Ted Frank, and Martin

Grace, the RiskProf.  I’m also sorry that I wasn’t a (gad)fly on the

wall for the dinner Friday night at Princeton, which brought together

the five co-bloggers from Point of Law.



tiny check  Yes, I was among those waylaid yesterday by news of the Miers

nomination.  But, I did check out Blawg Review #26 at Tom Mighell’s

Inter Alia.   Among other good things I found there, was a pointer to

Kevin Thompson at Cyberlaw Central, who had an important warning 

last week about the FCC’s intention to require ISPs and broadband

providers supply “backdoors” to law enforcement that will allow them

to monitor communications. CyblerLaw is my newly-discovered

weblawg of the week, and I shall return to Kevin’s window on the digital



tiny check  Lisa Stone at’s weblog summary Inside Opinions, has

asked whether and when jurors should be “blogging” about jury duty.  The

question came to her from Josh Hallett and his weblog hyku (not related to

your Editor).  She got thoughtful responses from a distinguished panel of

lawyer-bloggers.  I certainly agree that having a weblog does not change a

juror’s obligations to the court and the justice system during or after trial,

but that leaves plenty of room for appropriate weblog writing when the

trial is over.


                                                                                                                                                      boy writing flip


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