Richard Heffern has written a book review of Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein. This science fiction story involves a five mile long and thousands of feet wide starship on its way to a distant planet in our galaxy. But several generations into the voyage the occupants have lost track of the fact they live on a starship or that they are on a voyage. The ship’s windowless interior prevents them from seeing the outside and the heavenly bodies they are passing. They have cometo believe that the interior of the ship is their whole world and no longer realize they are moving through thousands of stars and other bodies on their way to a destination. Their closed living area becomes their entire universe. They now live a life ofjust existing. They eat and live day by day. The scientists who control the matter converter become their high priests, but even the scientists have lost awareness of what the ship is or why they are on it. A group who occupy another area of the ship are the result of a mutunity many generations before. Then a young man from the interior of the ship is captured by thosewho have control of the upper decks. For the first time this manlooks out a window at the enormous galaxy in all its glory and realizes how limited his concept of the worldreally was. There was an unlimited universe all around him he was unaware about.
As trial lawyers we can allow our view of our professional work to shrink down to our own little area of practice. If we stop being curious, stop investigating new and better ways to represent our clients and instead become complacent we end up like the occupants in the interior of the starship.We lose sight of our role in obtaining justice for our clients and fall into patterns of doingthings in the same way. We eventually even forget why we did things that way in the first place and just do it without thinking about it.
Thisreminds me of Zen story about the Buddhist monastery that always kept a cat on the premises. However, each time before chanting began, one monk was assigned the duty of taking the cat to another area of the monastery and tying him up until after chanting ended. Having a cat and following this procedure had become one of the required rituals of the monastery over the years. No one could remember why this ritual with the cat was required,however. Investigation into the records of the monastery revealed that many years before a monk had been given permission to have a cat, but the cat howled during chanting so the head of the monetary ordered the monk who kept the cat to take it somewhere else until the chanting was over. He did this every day until he died some time later and another monk took over. When the cat died another cat was substituted and so the practice became a required religious ritual.
Bob Dylan’s famous lyrics "the times they are a-changing" is historically accurate. People’s thinking changes and our methods of communication must change as well. We can talk about "generation X" or label this fact anyway we want, but the fact remains trial lawyers must keep up with the times. That means reading books on how people think, attending seminars and being will to take risks in representing clients.