This marks the 100th birthday of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. So let us begin with a few lines from his poem Fern Hill.
“And fire green as grass,
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.”
When I first read this poem in high school, I did not know what he was talking about. Yet, I loved the lilting sound of the words, their unexpected, startling juxtaposition, the rhythm of the language that carried the reader or the listener forward on a captivating journey. But when I thought more about the poem I came to realize Thomas was recalling his childhood in Wales.
In college I read T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a far more intellectual poem. The extraordinary opening line grabbed me by the throat and would not let go: "Let us go now you and I where the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table." I liked the poem, but why I could not say. But because I had to write a paper analyzing the poem, I had to understand it as best as I could. This forced me to dig beneath its surface to gain insight into its meaning. I also considered the analysis of critics and scholars.
Most critics agreed that Prufrock spoke to the corrosive and emasculating effect of modern society on humankind. Some thought “you” and “I” in the opening stanza reflected a dialog between Prufrock and an imaginary woman he did not have the courage to meet. I posited that "you" and "I" were two aspects of the psyche within the same person.
At the time I could not have realized that my approach to the poem would be similar to what I and my colleagues do as judges. The big difference is that what we read is not as inspiring, nor as enduring as poetry. We analyze briefs and write about them. But, like literary critics, we do not always come to the same conclusion and often see issues differently. Our opinions that reflect our diverse analyses and interpretations can be equally convincing and valid.
But in another respect, I never expected that my analysis of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem would visit me with a vengeance some 47 years later. And this takes us back to my last month’s October column. “Pardon the Interruption.” You may recall I wrote about Martine Rothblatt's book "Virtually Human." He wrote about modern technology allowing us to create cyber-conscious digital replicas of ourselves. He has created one of his wife, called Bina48.
It is one thing for a column to engender discussion and debate, but I never expected to be confronted with what resulted from this column. It stems from talented and resourceful lawyers. Many are musicians, writers, and artists. And some are scientists. The staff at my court, under the coordination of research attorney Katy Graham, created a virtual replica of myself.
I was thrilled and looked forward to a warm, enduring and beneficial partnership. But if I had thought back to a peculiar concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles I attended a few years ago, I would not have had such high expectations. It featured the great jazz pianist Art Tatum. Tatum’s prodigious technique and harmonic inventions were so awesome that even the great piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz listened to him. When I was around 10 years old, my Dad took me to hear Tatum at Sardis, a club in Hollywood. I recall standing next to the piano and watching the blur of Tatum's fingers over the keyboard.
But how could I attend this concert when Tatum had been dead for over 40 years? This was a virtual concert. Technicians had reproduced Tatum’s solo concert at the Shrine Auditorium in 1939 on a concert grand Steinway. My wife and I were among the few people who showed up for the concert. Sitting in the cavernous Shrine Auditorium watching a Steinway piano play without a player was creepy. After a few numbers we had to get out of there.
Interruption for advertisement. Speaking of the Shrine Auditorium, and a piano player named Art, I will be playing the piano there for a Veterans Day Concert with the award winning Big Band of Barristers conducted by Gary Greene, Esq. on Sunday, November 9th, at 3:00 p.m. Doors open at 1:00 p.m. Guest artists and the great singing group Singers-In-Law will be performing. Free tickets are available if you click on www.BigBandGig.eventbrite.com. You will find that lawyers swing. End of advertisement.
But getting back to my virtual self. I had such high hopes. It's a long drive to Ventura. I thought it would allow me to work at home more often. My cyberself Arthur 2 could take care of routine cases and sign orders. But to be perfectly frank, I don’t trust him. We seldom see eye to eye on anything. He wants to do the hard cases. That’s fine with me, but he gets the wrong results. He is much tougher than I am on continuances. Now I have to drive up more often to keep an eye on him. And get this, he objects to the name Arthur 2. What? He should be Arthur 1? No way. And he constantly interrupts me. He is a pain in the ass.
I want to get rid of him. But like Prufrock he is a part of me. Let’s face it, we can’t get away from ourselves. And at least Arthur 2 and I have some things in common. For example we both love Dylan Thomas. Of course, I cannot know how many years I have left, and Arthur 2 could be around years after I am gone. But Arthur 2 knows that “forever” is a dream. We have told each other:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”