Tag Archives: psychology

Last Full Measure of Devotion: I Discover a Personal Lincoln

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial, NPS photo

Sheltered in the warmth of a Detroit library’s archives on a blustery fall evening, I happened upon a clue to  Abraham Lincoln’s political artistry.   Having often visited Washington, I have met the  marble Lincoln seated at the Memorial, his presence like  an ancient oracle  looking out toward the reflecting pool, his famous words etched on the walls, and a steady stream of tourists looking up to a revered, if distant, figure. The setting last Thursday allowed me a more personal insight.

Reblogging this in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday

The archivist led our small group into an alcove where the library kept fragile materials.  A letter on yellowed paper, too frail to be touched, rested on a display table. Written in a forceful, cursive hand, the note  was dated October 11 in the first year of the Civil War.  The writer sought the aid of the Secretary of War.  The signature at the bottom read, Abraham Lincoln.

At first glance, the letter’s content seemed   mundane. Lincoln was asking the Secretary of War to assign two junior army officers to a general named Sherman. Never having seen one of Lincoln’s letters up close, I mused over this bit of history.   For me, there was a sense of the past looking over my shoulder.

Walking out of the alcove, I found myself imagining the story that might lie behind the letter. I pictured Lincoln in the White House with his young son, Tad, playing nearby.  A  Congressman from a Midwest prairie district, fortified for the occasion by a prior visit to nearby Willard’s bar, asks the president for a favor for two constituents.    Perhaps one had been a small town lawyer and the other a local politician; now they were  officers in the  Union Army.  Did I mention that Lincoln is a Republican and the Congressman a Democrat?  Lincoln listens intently, turning over the Congressman’s request in his mind.  Rather than committing himself, Lincoln tells a droll story, and the two men share a hearty laugh.  Today, this scene would be impossible,, but in 1861, politics worked in just this fashion.

Abraham Lincoln mastered the political arts as a lifelong endeavor, beginning with many years spent brokering deals in the fractious Illinois legislature.  His shrewdness and deft touch have never been equaled in American history.   Lincoln’s strengths met the ultimate test in the  Civil War, where military triumphs required a sturdy foundation of political success.   In the North, popular support for the war remained problematic, from the opening shots at Fort Sumter to the last bugles at Appomattox Court House.  Lincoln faced a precarious high wire balancing act during his presidency.

Rancorous partisan strife marked politics in Lincoln’s time.  Yet, if  Democrats deserted the war effort, the Union cause would be lost. One key to their support was the appointment of prominent Democrats, sometimes woefully unqualified as officers, to positions in the Army.  Lincoln knew that such concessions to political reality were unavoidable, though no one felt the resulting loss of life more deeply than he did.  Fortunately, he eventually found the commanders he needed to win the war.

Lincoln’s simple words in a faded letter remain with me as I write this.  Certainly, his speeches deserve to be enshrined in our country’s memory, yet it should not be forgotten that he was first and always a politician of great sensitivity and finely honed persuasive ability.  He could reach out to an opponent, arrange a deal, and reach a compromise—all the while keeping his eyes on the prize.  Such is the legacy that Lincoln left us, if we would only learn from his bequest.

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Photo Challenge: A Tour of Michigan’s Cascades, Gentle and Wild

There is a waterfall in every dream. Cool and crystal clear, it falls gently on the sleeper, cleansing the mind and soothing the soul.
–Virginia Alison

A tour of Michigan would be incomplete  without pausing  along the way to listen to the music of  waterfalls, from a gentle stream near my home to the crescendo of  a roaring river in the forest primeval of the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Challenge:  Tour Guide  

 

Fleming Creek, Michigan

Au Sable River

Iargo Springs, Michigan

Tacquamenon Falls, Michigan

WPC, Tour Guide: Mildly Intoxicating Feeling of Beauty

The enjoyment of beauty has a peculiar, mildly intoxicating quality of feeling. Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.

–Sigmund Freud

Nothing quite as serene as  a summer sunset over a local Michigan lake,  the sky lit by a golden glow and a stillness in the air.

Photo Challenge:  Tour Guide 

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

Photo Challenge: Whispers of the Past amidst the Forest Silence

The brook whispering as it slid past the ice on the banks was the solitary sound in the woods, but I imagined it carried a voice–her voice–from winters past, but not forgotten.  Before I quite caught it, the memory slipped away, as the sparkling water disappeared around the bend.  Yet, the sky shone with an intense blue and  hope returns with the approaching Spring.

Photo Challenge:  Silence  

 

Fleming Creek, Michigan

Photo Challenge, Favorites: Sunlight, Play and Renewal

Always in search of the playful quality of light in Michigan’s forests, I happened upon this scene confirming summer’s renewal.

“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.”
– Jean Piaget

Photo Challenge:  Favorites  

near Ann Arbor, Michigan

Beauty’s Intoxicating Feeling

The enjoyment of beauty has a peculiar, mildly intoxicating quality of feeling. Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.

–Sigmund Freud

So, as winter sets in and the trees rest in their dormant shade of gray,  memories of summers past and summers to come beguile the time.

Kensington Park, Michigan