The Wisdom of John Adams

I am reading the biography of John Adams by David McCullough. It strikes me that those who most turn to waving the flag proclaiming “Don’t Tread On Me” haven’t the faintest clue as to what this particular, and genius, Founding Father believed was the importance of a republican form of government. What he said and thought was intelligently conceived, and wisely prescient. I could paraphrase, but his words are plainly clear and more eloquent…

“The happiness of people is the purpose of government, and therefore, that form of government is best which produces the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number.”

“Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant”

“…I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls…  There is one thing, my dear sir, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect, and venerations introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way”

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End of July

It has been a long interesting week.  I have spent part of it tending to the removal of weeds from a rock wall.  It felt good to touch the dirt, to feel it cake my arms.  The smells of grass and clover and weeds all mingle to create a purely summer smell.  And, for one so hesitant to bask in the heat of summer, I poured sweat more this week than in a long time.  And it felt good.  Left to my own devices, chances are slim that I would have ventured out and been productive.  But, having a responsibility this week to care for someone else’s garden is a great motivation.

Life without cable television is quite good, actually.  Anything I have a firm desire to see I can usually find on the internet.  Have spent more time with music, which is always a good option.  The owner of the small company for which I work lent me his copy of the biography of John Adams by David McCullough.  Excellent read.  And movies… catching up on movies: Red (funny – especially John Malkovich), The Town (Outstanding), True Grit (the Coen Brothers’ version, which I already like better than the John Wayne film) and, today, 13 Assassins, which was excellent in a way only a fan of movies about samurai could truly understand.

My ex-fiancee and her son are still on my mind.  This week they seemed to be there a little more often.  There is still guilt there, but it is not as acute.  Sometimes they appear vividly in a dream, or a familiar song, or a smell, or a memory just floats to the surface for no reason.  I hope they are doing well.

Yesterday, my dear friend and her sister were in town on a fundraising bike tour – raising money for MS research.  It is always a treat seeing her.  It meant an early morning getting them back to the start point for today’s leg of the ride, but was totally worth it.  I don’t know how they ride 50+ miles per day for a week.  But they do!  And for a good cause, as well.

Oh, and the rain.  Apparently 5 inches of the stuff came down in a monsoon-like deluge yesterday.  Believe me, I was out in it briefly and I think the collar of my shirt is still damp.  My heart went out to the MS Tram riders who were camping out at Lake Park!

It’s also intriguing how often my mind wanders to thoughts of her.  Yes, she returns tomorrow after a week away.  Not many moments went by without a thought of her.  Is that ridiculous or pathetic? I’m sure she thought little of me while enjoying a break from her busy life.  Everything is moving very slowly (sometimes painfully slowly, especially for someone as impatient as I) but there is something new and interesting about that approach.  Once upon a time, this part went by in a blur, and we all know how that  turned out.  Maybe I need the slower pace to grow and develop… to come out of this cave and cage which I fashioned and find a way to be a man.  But my heart does ache sometimes.  Incorrigible romantic.

Tomorrow…

Bill Watterson – An Admirable Famous Person

My favorite comic strip of all time is Calvin and Hobbes.  Artistically beautiful and compelling, hysterically funny, yet poignant without resorting to melodrama, it was everything a great comic strip should be.  It was published in newspapers for 11 short years from 1985 to 1995.  Yes, it was about a kid and his stuffed tiger, but it was always about so much more to me.  It allowed me to laugh at life’s inconsistencies and illogical-ness and gave me insights to all the questions we have asked ever since we were kids ourselves.   Its author, Bill Watterson, steadfastly refused to ever license his creation for profit.

That’s why it never ceases to anger me when I see a Calvin-like character peeing on something.  It’s degrading and demeaning, and not funny –  three things that this brilliant comic strip NEVER was.

On the 15th anniversary of the last published Calvin and Hobbes strip, the highly reclusive Bill Watterson gave a rare interview to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  He explained his decision to end the strip:

“This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now “grieving” for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.”

In these times when everyone and his pet fish is looking for quick fame and even quicker fortune, and when untalented, over-marketed “stars” are squeezing every last penny out of their fifteen minutes of fame,  it is truly refreshing to hear something so honest from someone who truly deserves all of his fame and fortune.

Watterson had an on-going, friendly back-and-forth with Berkeley Breathed (creator of another of my all-time favorite strips, Bloom County) in which he scathed Breathed for licensing his creations mercilessly to feed his more expensive habits.  He had beliefs and had no problem sticking with them even when his friends and colleagues disagreed, even if he did it primarily through his art.  That kind of character is what we need to admire.  Instead, cable TV feeds us a regular diet of “reality” (is there really any label as inaccurate as this one?) and bombards us with images of ostentatious excess that have numbed us to the reality of who we are and what we can achieve together.  We are so much better than we are portrayed.

 

Two of my personal favorites – what imagination!