Sympathists

Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln’

Of Lincoln, and the Country of my Birth

In Life as Lived on January 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

Editor’s Note: What follows is a diary entry from 15 months ago assessing life at 33. It will be obvious that this was before Obama’s election, before indeed, he had become a household name, and from a time when the coming economic crisis was already fairly apparent. It should be noted that Sympathies is not a political blog, and this is not primarily a political piece. Still, it reflects a disquiet with the state of the world that, while I certainly don’t retract, has given way, at least temporarily, to a cautious optimism. In other words, for a variety of reasons, it is time for an updated assessment of matters both public and private, but before taking stock of where we are it is wise to recall where we have been. So, without further ado, here is a piece from the time capsule.

young-abe-lincolnIncreasingly, I feel a crisis coming, a point of decision that has been postponed far too long, avoided in fact because of a weakness of will. Either one is destined for action and achievement, or one is not…rather, either one makes the decision to act and to achieve, or one fails to summon the resolve and strength of will, all the while finding new reasons why this should be so.

Case in point: I am a reader and writer first, maybe a talker. What living there is for me lies in these realms; what achievement lies within my grasp ditto. But for a decade I have allowed the regular slide into lassitude to hinder forward movement. Fobbing off the notion that what is done at work is work enough is an unacceptable weakness. But are one’s lack of discipline and minor vices the cause or the symptom of the problem? The answer is the latter; the problem lies deeper. It lies in the character of the age.

People are born into all kinds of situations, situations which imprint their values and norms, their psychoses and their crusades, their taboos and unquestionables. I was born into nothing particular. Or rather, I was born a diffident, private intellectual into a mostly secular household without a governing ideology. Encouraged, but hardly pushed academically, it took me years to even figure out how to approach my potential, and all along the way I have been but infrequently challenged. Have I sought to avoid challenge–fearing that I would not measure up? This is possible. Have I created the conditions for mental atrophy? People have done great work in a variety of life situations–from the depths of debauchery; from the staidness and satiety of the suburban middle-class; from prisons and madhouses; from the gutter and from the palace. Context and daily company cannot be used as an excuse. Continue Reading

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