a response to a response, & Lincoln
Thanks John for your thoughtful comment on today's earlier blog. On our way to Kansas City for the conference I wrote about in yesterday's blog, I bought the book LINCOLN by David Herbert Donald. When I read the following passage, it timely grooved with the insight I received upon hearing from the Cambodian pastor: From his earliest days Lincoln had a sense that his destiny was controlled by some larger force, some Higher Power. Turning away from orthodox Christianity because of the emotional excesses of frontier evangelism, he found it easier as a young man to accept what was called the Doctrine of Necessity, which he defined as the belief that the human mind is impelled to action, or held in rest by some power, over which the mind itself has no control. Later, he frequently quoted to his partner, William H. Herndon, the lines for Hamlet: There s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough √¢‚Ç¨‚Äúhew them how he will. From Lincoln s fatalism derived some of his most lovable traits: his compassion, his tolerance, his willingness to overlook mistakes. That belief did not, of course, lend him to lethargy or dissipation. Like thousands of Calvinists who believed in predestination, he worked indefatigably for a better world for himself, for his family, and for his nation. But it helped to buffer the many reverses that he experienced and enabled him to continue a strenuous life of aspiration. It also made for a pragmatic approach to problems, a recognition that if one solution as fated not to work another could be tried. My policy is to have no policy became a kind of motto from Lincoln a motto that infuriated the sober, doctrinaire people around him who were inclined to think that the President had no principals either. He might have offended his critics less if he had more often used the analogy he gave James G. Blaine when explaining his course on Reconstruction: The pilots on our Western rivers steer from point to point as they call it setting the course of the boat no further than they can see; and that is all I propose to myself in this great problem. Both statements suggest Lincoln s reluctance to take the initiative and make bold plans; he preferred to respond to the actions of others. They also show why Lincoln in his own distinctively American way had the quality John Keats defined as forming a Man of Achievement , that quality which Shakespeare possessed so enormously Negative Capability, that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason (p.15) I question our modern fascination with visions and goals and strategies to get there, especially when it comes to the individual and to the church.