The Better Angels of Our Nature

PIER, oil on canvas, 30×40

GREETINGS on Super Sunday!

Today, the second of back-to-back-to-back holidays, our national, secular religion celebrates its greatest day, appropriately on the Sabbath, its gravitas enshrined in Roman numerals. 

Helmeted acolytes will risk life and limb tucking and cradling tribal prayers inside an iconic, pigskin bladder, whetting our hunger and thirst, riveting our wagers and attention. Hallelujah!

Yesterday’s holiday trio began, however, with a wimper, with the seldom acknowledged or celebrated birthday of Abraham Lincoln. 

It’s no surprise. With his high-pitched voice and advocacy for “a more perfect union,” Lincoln today would never have made it out of Illinois, much less the presidency. Instead, as we await the Big Game of a sports league facing fresh charges of discrimination, we are left to ponder the bizarre irony of a Republican ending slavery.

On the brink of the Civil War, Lincoln, in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, was both speaking to the moment and eerily prescient in noting that “a disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted…” 

In his effort to maintain peace, he assiduously avoids assigning blame while still naming the problem, “that there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it …”

Yet he ends with a call for unity and by appealing to our higher selves:

“We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Four years later to the day, Lincoln delivered a more sobering address, acknowledging the terrible costs of the Civil War. He ends by urging Americans “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln, of course, paid the ultimate price for the courage of his convictions. Today, his image endures, his thoughtful gaze circulating in our wallets and pocketbooks on the five-dollar bill — more irony, as the world of commerce has so far failed to monetize him … unlike today’s vast, overblown spectacle.

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IF YOU ARE EXHAUSTED by the pre-game hype; or not planning to watch; 

uninspired by the elaborate deceit of reckless ads or the shameless aggrandizement of the halftime entertainment; 

or unable to sleep after the thrills of this monumental gladiator tilt (where wealth, fame and a few broken bones and headaches, not lions, await these rams and tigers); 

here’s an alternative, an oasis from the noise on St. Valentine’s Eve, a sip of painted water.

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TOMORROW BRINGS a quick turnaround from battleground to love.

The pure and timeless message symbolized by the little-known, third-century Roman saint still miraculously manages to poke through clouds of crass commercialism, looping back to Lincoln’s eternal appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

Enjoy the game! Here’s a toast to bean dip, athleticism, and teamwork — sandwiched between the legacy of two martyrs for love and reconciliation.

Be kind and loving today, tomorrow, and the day after.

10 Replies to “The Better Angels of Our Nature”

  1. What? Was there a football game?? I am eternally grateful to be married to someone who couldn’t care less about football. And I concur! We were listening to a Coqui, a tiny tree frog, singing his heart out in the stairwell, last night, with his song of love… and the night music off the lenai-balcony. Love & happy❤️ Day to you and Bar, dear Russ! 😍

    1. Thank you, Meg! The frogs sound wonderful. Quieter, and far more lyrical, than last night’s extravaganza, a paean to consumption and commercialism. Full disclosure: I watched, albeit somewhat disinterestedly. It’s my job. Enjoy the warmth, and the music of nature!!

  2. What a gorgeous painting! Russ it feels so connected and a beautiful story of sailing away from the city! I see it clearly!!
    Happy Valentines day to you and Bar!

    1. Thank you, Jan! I appreciate it. Painting with greater focus and purpose … hopefully I’ll keep sailing away!

  3. This combination of your lyrical journalism and painting is fabulous.

    PIER is a new favorite for me. This style evolution which reflects place, movement, possible habitation, and a message of the unusual relationship of color, time and space as the artists sees it full on, is really great!

    1. Thank you so much! I am glad to hear it. As I plow ahead with both hands, uncertain what the soil will reveal or what will sprout in these fertile fields (not to belabor the metaphor), I greatly appreciate the feedback and encouragement.

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