From this year's Charles Taylor Prize winner: When Abraham Lincoln embraced the end of slavery, he transformed a domestic civil war into a struggle for the soul of humanity. With this transformation, he now presided over America's first war of humanitarian intervention, with a crusading, explicitly religious moralism at its core.
The more I read of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, the more engagingly human and sympathetic he became. It's easy for us to imagine him as someone for whom success came easily, someone whose obvious talents meant he never tasted defeat or disappointment. But things didn't exactly work out that way for him. I was surprised to see him touting for prestigious commissions that he failed to land. Yes, Leonardo got turned down for a job. Somewhere in Piacenza a hiring committee got together, sifted through the hopeful applicants, and ended up tossing Leonardo's application in the rubbish bin.
William Lyon Mackenzie King was a political survivor who consistently beat those opponents who underestimated him. He was a complex and canny man, and few realized how good he was as a political operator. King was safe, staid, even boring, like an elderly aunt, who never changed the fading lace and served watery tea in cracked china. Canadians at the time evidently took solace in him. What a surprise when, after his death in 1950, it was revealed that King had a robust spiritual life, found solace in séances with the dead, and kept a 30,000 page diary that was filled with deep revelations.
My father does not tell me that U.S. soldiers were ordered to slaughter South Korean refugees--that they machine gunned old women and small children because they might have been Northern spies. If my father knows about such things, he does not speak of them. It is decades before anyone publicly will.
Some people think planting trees is as boring and crazy making as stuffing envelopes or a climbing a StairMaster. I love my job for exactly the opposite reason, because it is so full of things. There are so many living creatures to touch and smell and look at in the field that it's often a little intoxicating. A setting so full of all-enveloping sensations that it just sweeps you up and spirits you away, like Vegas does to gamblers or Mount Everest to climbers.
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