Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Some February 14 Thoughts

I grew up in Michigan. I went to a public school, a tiny, rural school. If this post were a syllogism, the inexorable conclusion to draw from these premises would be: in my youth, I learned nothing of note about the U.S. Civil War. At least nothing more significant than "we won" and "Lincoln freed the slaves."

There is some benefit to be derived from limited learning of this kind, however. To cite just one example: for the last 10-15 years, I have been reading about the Civil War (or as my wife's Southern family calls it, the War of Northern Aggression), and the whole thing is so fresh and fascinating. Reading about Abraham Lincoln is fresh and fascinating. Reading about Robert E. Lee is fresh and fascinating.

Most fresh and fascinating of all is the reading of Civil War correspondence. The men and women of that era considered things in depth. They thought and wrote about things, per my Nozick quote in the sidebar, that matter. The most soulful example of this, I think, are the words of Sullivan Ballou to his wife, on the eve of battle, and his death: "But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by."

Now that is a love letter.

Here is a hat tip to Sullivan Ballou, the writer of the most beautiful Valentine I have ever read.