Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/03/17: Reading *A. Lincoln* Again, Enduring Questions, Lincoln and Brandy After Tomato Soup

1.  When I decide to spend a lot of time reading, I have to block out of my mind all the other things I'm not doing: I'm not out taking pictures, I'm not doing the sorting and filing that needs to be done, I'm not exercising, I'm not vacuuming or scrubbing the woodwork or shopping for groceries or cleaning the bathroom or putting my laundry away or getting the dishes done or planning tonight's meal or writing thank you notes -- and, back in Eugene, I wasn't working in the yard or cleaning out the garage -- well, you get the point. I admit it. I live with a nagging voice in my head that tells me I ought to be getting something done or ought to be out in the world instead of sitting in a chair or lying on my back just reading. Today, I fought back against those voices -- it took a while -- but I succeeded and I returned to reading Ronald C. White's lengthy biography, A Lincoln -- I hadn't read a word of it since I went to Kellogg in early November-- even though I had my tablet with the Kindle app loaded on it the whole time.

2. Much of what I read today centered on the Lincoln-Douglas debates as the two competed for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing Illinois. The debates centered on the moral question of slavery, state sovereignty, and the question of whether white people were superior to black people. In other words, just who were the founders of our country referring to when they declared "all men are created equal"?

In college, I double majored in history and English primarily because I always want to understand both what changes in the human and the American experience as time moves us along and what endures, what remains constant.

The questions Lincoln and Douglas debated are central, enduring questions regarding what the meaning of the United States of America is.  How are laws are formed and applied? What is the law's relation to what is moral and immoral? How is public morality determined and by what measure?  It's not that history repeats itself as we wrestle with these same questions in 2017. No, these questions remain with us always in the U.S.A. They are central to our identity as a country and remain complex and thorny. They have been, are, and will continue to be the source of much conflict.

As the day drew to an end, I was glad I spent so much time with this book and that the sorting and filing that needs to be done and the other tasks I didn't do can wait.

3.  The Deke and I relaxed into a quiet evening.  The Deke added another can of diced tomatoes and some butter to the leftover tomato soup. We each ate a bowl and I had a toasted cheese sandwich along with it. I warmed myself with some brandy mixed with hot water and continued to read the biography of Abraham Lincoln. I have a long way to go before finishing it.

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