Monday, January 19, 2009

A mountain in grandeur of soul...

Let us speak now of humanity a few minutes, since there seems to be so damn little of it anymore.

Forgive the cynical attitude tonight. I have had enough of human beings and their despicable behavior for one week. At some level, it's getting more and more difficult to give a damn.

So let's talk of humanity, and of presidents -- or at least one in particular -- since we will inaugurate a new one on Tuesday. He was a good man, wise beyond his years, decent, humane and brilliant.

Yes, in case you're wondering, it's Abraham Lincoln. And if you think that is a cliched statement, well, I will refrain from saying anything ugly.

When Lincoln rode the train from Springfield to Washington in the winter of 1861, the fate of the republic lay in the two hands on his lanky frame. He was untried, inexperienced, virtually unknown to most of the country. Few gave him a chance.

And yet he became the greatest president we have ever known.

Sure, Lincoln was manipulative, scheming, aware of the power of politics. But he rose above his time, spoke words only a remarkable soul can ever create, seeking malice toward none and charity for all.

Read his Second Inaugural Address. Read the most poignant two-minute oratory in presidential history (it happened at Gettysburg in November 1863 if you need a clue). Then think about the fact that the lawyer from Illinois took less than a year of formal schooling.

He is my one, true hero from American history, a shining example of what a human being and a president can be, someone to grasp onto when you're looking for an inspiration amid the insanity.

I have just about had it. I have witnessed too much senseless anger, too much heartache, too many examples of those who call another "friend" showing no more decency than one would treat a mouse that had stumbled into the house, too many two-faced politicians who offer the world nothing but a shit-eating grin. It doesn't mesh with what I want to believe about the world. It is depressing.

But I think about a lot of things -- the real friends; life's true priorities; the precious, wonderful, all too uncommon moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

And I think, too, about Abraham Lincoln, of the life that is very much the exception to the rule.

Here, let me leave you with some words from the poet Carl Sandburg. This never fails to stir my soul.

"There is no new thing to be said about Lincoln. There is no new thing to be said of the mountains, or of the sea, or of the stars. The years go their way, but the same old mountains lift their granite shoulders above the drifting clouds; the same mysterious sea beats upon the shore; the same silent stars keep holy vigil above a tired world.

"But to the mountains and sea and stars men turn forever in unwearied homage. And thus with Lincoln. For he was a mountain in grandeur of soul. He was a sea in deep undervoice of mystic loneliness. He was a star in steadfast purity of purpose and service.

"And he abides."

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