Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer is writing columns this week.
TAKING TIME is a Lincolnesque thing to do.
President Obama took time to turn and reflect silently on the history and the crowds after his Second Inaugural. Reporters found it uniquely newsworthy.
Lincoln took several long sabbaticals from politics, and many long silent buggy rides on the prairie legal circuit. Daniel Day-Lewis took a year to study Lincoln before agreeing to make the new movie. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln pleaded that it wouldn’t hurt to take time with the mounting civil crisis.
Lincoln had a sense of yonder—such a different pace in approaching life that Steven Spielberg noted recently in TIME magazine that there probably isn’t even a mayor’s job that would suit Lincoln now in this “adrenaline-fueled” era of ours.
Have we evolved dangerously past the ability to ponder things in our hearts?
Is our thinking instant and shallow?
Lincoln’s sense of yonder started young. In southern Indiana, where he lived from boyhood until he was 21, there is a unique marker at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial showing the original footprint of his famiy’s cabin. A bronze cast outlines the log walls and 300-stone fireplace of the last Lincoln cabin there. The tiny size dismays most viewers. Fourteen-and-half feet by eighteen-and-a-half feet—yet as many as nine members of the extended Lincoln family lived there at one time. Lincoln understood its limitations. He called the area “unpoetical.” (The Memorial site has both the outline, described here, and a reconstructed cabin shown in the photo above.)
Carl Sandburg rhapsodized accurately on the mind and heart of young Abe Lincoln there on the hundred-acre farm, “Beyond Indiana was something else: beyond the timber and the underbrush, the malaria, milk sick, …hands hard and crooked as the roots of walnut trees. There must be something else.”
For Lincoln, America was out there. Thither, but not yon. Farther, but not beyond. It was a place within sight and reach. Not a field of dreams. A real place visible by the gift of dreaming. Deep thought takes time, more time than you have likely allowed for reading this column.
Lincoln said in his House Divided speech of 1858, “If we could first know where we are, and wither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.”
Isn’t that why we take the time to read the spirit?
What do you think of Lincoln’s vision and dreams?
Please, leave a Comment below.
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.