At the start of Ken Burns' masterful The Civil War, a letter, read by some deeply rich voice of one of Burns' all-star cast of narrators, employs the then-ubiquitous anachronism that most veterans used to describe their first taste of combat--the young man had "seen the elephant." That phrase leapt into my mind on Thursday: walking out of the bar exam, I realized that I had indeed "seen the elephant."
I had seen the most nerve-wracking, harrowing experience that the law has yet thrown at me, and I somehow survived. True, I have not yet received my results, and (I say as I offer up a silent prayer) I certainly hope I pass. Realistically, I studied hard--and reckon I performed well--enough not to fail. But walking out of the exam, I certainly felt like I stood a 50/50 chance at failing. Chalk that up to my defeatist tendencies if you want to, but I would imagine that the person who did not feel that way was a freakishly rare exception.
Texas does not release bar scores until November 4th, so I must endure months of waiting until I get my results, and, hopefully, my fear of failure does not sit at the back of my mind, slowly sapping my sanity. But the fear of studying, the fear of anticipation, the fear of not knowing, not being prepared, of not writing at great length or speed or with eloquence or any of the innumerable insecurities I can conjure up are finally gone. Like many obstacles, I mystified the bar to an extent far worthier than it warranted. And walking out, I realized that the bar is simply a test, that mere mortals can overcome this test without shouldering an olympian burden of knowledge. The bar exam is not climbing Parnassus--it is simply cramming principles, like any other test. It is important, but hardly insurmountable. And I thank my friends and the Lord for getting me through.
Why Colonel Sartoris?
Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.