Friday, November 29, 2013

To write a biography of John F. Kennedy, you have to inhabit him from within.  You have to understand his experiences as partially universal, applicable to those of other lives, regular lives like our own.  You'd have to understand him on his own terms, by making your own sympathetic to his.  You could write about a few things and make long light of them.  Like the girl who broke his heart, marrying John Hersey, like his need for action and adventure, the proverbial PT Boat days.  You'd have to write about his adrenal system, as if through over-activity and too much push, he burned himself out, but how that push remained in him, aided as it was by medication.  You'd have to write of his own understanding of courage, how he'd walk up the steps of the three floor tenements of Watertown, ponderously, painfully, one step at a time, putting one foot up, then following with the next foot.

You'd have to follow him into your own life experiences, your own need to be, as he put, somewhere every day.  You'd have to see your own courage to show up and physically and mentally deal with things.  You'd have to understand your own need for words and books, whatever form of history you find pertinent.

The world is a disappointment.  That is wisdom.  In accepting that wisdom the mind rises to a higher understanding.  And no intelligent person can long ignore the fact of the grim nature of life, of the hopeless quality to worldly battles.  "Pain falls drop by drop upon the soul, until through the awful grace of God, comes wisdom":  Robert Kennedy quoting Aeschylus, as if to finish his brother's thoughts, before he himself was murdered.

But shouldn't you know all that, coming into it.  That's the mysterious thing, maybe, about the cracked negative picture of Lincoln, or that one with his head cocked, including his hands in his lap, as if holding a watch.  He seems to get it finally.  That's how he'd entered the whole thing in the first place, not wanting to be a house divided against himself and his basic sense of Biblical justice.

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