I’ve been silient on the blog-front for a bit, and I apologize to folks who like to keep up with what I’m thinking. I should probably blog out some of my sermon preparations each week, that would be an interesting exercise (and far warning to folks from Central who happen by).
The last couple of weeks I’ve been busy preparing for a retreat I’ll be leading for Eastern University’s student chaplains. My wife and I were both chaplains while we were at Eastern, and the program meant a lot to us, so it’s been good to re-engage with people involved in it nowadays.
Aside from that I’ve been plowing through the McCullough’s biography of John Adams. Time where I might have spent writing has largely gone to getting through it before the end of January (so I could other books). It’s been time well-spent. McCullough has done a masterful job weaving together various letters and historical reflections to string together this narrative of Adam’s life. Personally, I would love read some of the period newspapers he must have researched!
I have a strong affection for John Adams, probably because I share a similar temperment to his own (stubborn, sometimes hot under the collar, with equal desire to form deep friendships and accomplish something “great”). Adams, perhaps, was one of the best people of his era – rising above party rancour and securing an honorable peace with France even at the expense of his career (a career without honor would have been unthinkable to Adams). He knew pain and hurt, yet never ceased his longing desire to love and be loved – there is, frankly, a lot to be learned by this man who has too often only remembered for departing Washington quietly on the day Jefferson was inaugorated.
In reading this biography I’ve come to understand that Adams shed more wisdom for posterity in the margins of his books than I offer week after week in sermons after sermon. This was a man who knew Greek and Latin, learned French and Dutch “on the job,” and had an interested in the Classics, English Poetry, Agriculture, Philosophy, and Law – and could switch between them at will.
Towards the end of McCullough’s work he quotes a margin-comment from an unnamed book from Adam’s library that struck me as particularly thought-provoking,
“Admire and adore the Author of the telescopic universe, love and esteem the work, do all in your power to lessen ill, and increase good, but never assume to comprehend.”
Adams, nearly 200 years ago penned a thought that almost prophetically unveiled the malaise of the Modern West – a profound lack of mystery. Adams was no mental slouch, and was instrumental in helping found a philosophical society in Boston, and yet he never once believed that he had things “figured out.” He’d suffered too much, seen too much of the world, and knew his own heart too well to make such a claim. He was comfortable with the idea of mystery, that there were things he’d never comprehand – and rather than lead him into bitterness, it gave him comfort and hope – actually empowering him to put his advise into practice throughout his life. What a lesson to learn!
Read this biography, it is richly rewarding.