Rolling Forward: Barrel, Exercise, Illinois Politicians, and More

Lots of development in the two weeks since my last post. My mind’s been everywhere, so posts have been infrequent. But I know I’ll spare some of the regret later on by jotting down pieces of life’s happenings:

Sei-Wook graduated a couple of weeks ago, and we finally set up our Barrel office. Details of this in our new Fish & Monkeys blog. Lots of energy in the air for the things we’ll be doing, but, as expected, some anxiety as well.

Reggie, who also just graduated, has been kind enough to provide for me and Wook a diet and exercise plan. In the past week, we’ve eaten a lot healthier (salmon, tilapia, chicken breast, veggies, etc.) and actually put ourselves through the agony of barbell lunges and squats at the gym. Last night, I helped him put up his own blog, The Sweaty Guinea Pig.

Two excellent New Yorker articles that you should read together, in no particular order: a piece from a few weeks ago on Obama called “The Conciliator” and a Adam Gopnik piece on Lincoln called “Angels and Ages”. Two politicians from Illinois with law backgrounds and many other similarities. Perhaps too early and unfair to hold Obama to such a comparison, but then again, would we revere Lincoln as much as we do today if he had not been assassinated (remember how his successor Andrew Johnson fought bitterly with Congress, a fate that could well have been Lincoln’s had he lived). And as a big fan of the doctor as hero (see here), I was pleased to read how these two men had doctor-like qualities in their detached demeanor. Here’s a paragraph from the Obama piece:

…Obama’s detachment, his calm, in such small venues, is less professorial than medical—like that of a doctor who, by listening to a patient’s story without emotional reaction, reassures the patient that the symptoms are familiar to him. It is also doctorly in the sense that Obama thinks about the body politic as a whole thing. If you are presenting a problem as something that they have perpetrated on us, then whipping up outrage is natural enough; but if you take unity seriously, as Obama does, then outrage does not make sense, any more than it would make sense for a doctor to express outrage that a patient’s kidney is causing pain in his back

And a longer passage from the Lincoln piece:

The bulk of his legal work- which took up the bulk of his professional life – was the predictable work of a small-town lawyer with a wide practice: property disputes, petty criminal cases, family arguments over money, neighbor at war with neighbor, bankruptcies, and, oddly, libel suits where local women defended themselves against charges of prostitution. His practice was the legal equivalent of a small-town doctor’s, treating head colds, lice, scarlet fever, and a rare case or two of venereal disease.

What he learned was not faith in a constant search for justice but the habit of empathetic detachment. “When we look closely,” Dirck says, “we can see Lincoln the President trying hard to apply a lawyer’s grease to the shrill machinery of war.” Dirck insists that Lincoln’s magnanimity, which was real, should not be “sentimentalized as a form of kindliness. . . . His magnanimity was also a function of his lawyerly sense of distance from other people’s motives, and his appreciation – honed by decades of witnessing nearly every imaginable form of strife in Illinois’s courtrooms – of the value of reducing friction as much as possible.” The lack of vindictiveness that Lincoln displayed (his favorite expression, his secretary John Hay once explained, was “I am in favor of short statutes of limitations in politics”) was the daily requirement of a small-town lawyer. Lincoln believed in letting go; his magnanimity was more strategic than angelic.

With temperatures reaching ninety degrees and the muggy humidity of summer starting to make un-A/Ced movements uncomfortable, there are still more things to look forward to than to dread in the coming months. For one thing, I’ll be giving one more go at a Weekenders type of program with friends, hoping to gather up a mix of people for outings such as Shakespeare in the Park, Bohemian Beer Garden, indie flicks, and trips to the beach. If you’re interested, shoot me an email! I also love how cold white wines become more and more desirable each day as summer nears. I highly recommend a Picpoul, a crisp-tasting white that goes incredibly well with greasy foods.


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