Consolation, and Despair

[Re-posted from a year ago. Still true.]

Frequently, like Steinbeck’s turtle, I feel myself traveling at right angles to everyone else. Or like Ishmael, I sometimes find myself growing grim about the mouth. Steinbeck’s turtle keeps on truckin’. Ishmael goes to sea.

I read.

Not just any reading will do, of course. Most of the time my cross-grain mood, the damp, drizzly November in my soul, will have been provoked by the news of the day. For relief in this instance, I turn to Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain. One or the other of them always consoles me. Sometimes, the consolation precedes the trauma, and prevents me, for one more day, from involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses.

This morning, looking for something entirely different, I came upon a collection of Lincoln’s work, and noticed in the volume an unfamiliar bookmark. The page it marked contained Lincoln’s letter of March 5, 1865, to Thurlow Weed, thanking Weed for his kind remarks about the Gettysburg Address.

Here is what Lincoln wrote. “I expect the [Gettysburg Address] to wear as well as — perhaps better than — any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them.”

Consolation for me, but even more, an essential truth for all who believe themselves to be instruments of Divine Will. If there were any hope that it would reach him, or, having reached him, that it would be read with comprehension, I’d send that quote to the current occupant of the White House.

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One thought on “Consolation, and Despair

  1. Wow. Have been perusing your posts here, and your writing, and the substance of it, is actually quite amazingly good. I’m not used to that. Just wanted to tip my hat.

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