Saturday, December 5, 2009

abraham lincoln, powerful and sad

cemetery in georgetown

It is really hard to deny the grandeur of Abraham Lincoln. His views and actions altered (and in many ways, shaped) American history, and the implications of his thought process had (and have) an impact on a global scale. I have very strong Chicago pride, and pride in the Midwest as a whole. For these reasons, and many more, I feel that I have a larger than average appreciation of Lincoln. When I went to visit my best friend in Washington, D.C. I stopped at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and there was a large exhibit dedicated solely to Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit portrayed the different facets of Lincoln's personality and life spectacularly. I never thought that Lincoln was a poet, but there was a poem by him on the wall that I found to be strangely poignant and powerful.

My childhood-home I see again,
And gladden with the view;
And still as mem'ries crowd my brain,
There's sadness in it too.

O memory! thou mid-way world
Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed, and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise...

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs.

-Abraham Lincoln, around 1844

I found this poem to be hauntingly beautiful and timeless. I always have a strange feeling going home that is hard to articulate, so I like when other people do it for me. There may even be someone who did it more accurately, for me at least. Strangely, it was in an 'Elle' article about Mandy Moore. This is an email exchange I had with a journalist, Devin Friedman, almost a year ago about the article he wrote.

-----Original Message-----
From: Carolyn Lang []
Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 04:20 AM Eastern Standard Time
To: Friedman, Devin
Subject: Elle Article

Dear Devin,

This is really random, but I just wanted to tell you that I read your
article on Mandy Moore when it appeared in 'Elle' magazine three years ago.
I am not a fan of Mandy Moore or a subscriber to Elle magazine, but I was
getting a haircut and I saw the magazine sitting on the counter so I read
your article on her. I was in high school at the time, a junior, and I
didn't (and honestly, don't) have an exceptionally extensive knowledge of
what comprises a good written article. However, for some reason, a certain
paragraph has stuck with me for three years:

"That Moore's talents were manifest at age 14 is why she doesn't get Braff's hometown fetish. She was gone during those years when adultish longings hatch. Those of us who remain captive in our small teenage worlds tend to transfer our longings (loneliness, desire, beauty, friendship, sex) onto our hometowns, hanging them from the trees we grew up near and the houses of the first people on whom we had crushes, like Christmas ornaments, where they remain, powerful and sad, whenever we go back home."

I think it was the relevance that it had to my life- that is, leaving for college and having a shifting view on the place that I called home, that made this sentiment so memorable for me. Whatever the reason, I remember being struck by it's poetic eloquence and practical relevance when I read it. In fact, the impression was so ingrained on me that I was able to recall enough of it to google the article now.

It may seem completely random and pointless that I would email you about this now, but for some reason I thought it mattered. I think it is the fact that I am currently a journalism major and I think that someone writing telling me that something I wrote had an impact on them would make my day.
Merry Christmas.

Carolyn Lang
University of Illinois, 2011

Hi Carolyn,
What a fantastic email to get. Especially because that was my favorite paragraph in that story. It was the saving grace in an enterprise that was otherwise kinda mercenary. Anyway, really made my day. Thanks for finding me. How did you find me, anyway? Meanwhile, good luck with your journalism degree. And please keep me abreast of your progress and work that you're proud of. Also, I know you go to illinois, so i'll just say: GO BLUE!

Merry christmas and happy new year.

-----Original Message-----
From: Carolyn Lang []
Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 04:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: Friedman, Devin
Subject: Re: Elle Article

Hey Devin!

I'm glad you liked it- it was really random I know. I used to want to be a journalist but I have been kind of discouraged by hearing all my professors say that the field is becoming more and more difficult to enter because of reduced circulation of newspapers and other publications. Now I am thinking that I might minor in business and try to get a public relations job. Do you
like being a journalist? Do you have any advice? It seems like you have an awesome job. Do you write for a bunch of different magazines?

As for how I found you, it's kind of funny and investigative journalist-like. :) I googled your name and an adobe document came up with the names and email addresses of a bunch of journalists (for some kind of event maybe? I don't know) and I figured your name was unique enough that it was probably you.

I may be wrong but I am *pretty* sure we beat Michigan 45 to 20 this season. ;)

Anyway, thanks for emailing me back. I hope you had a good Christmas. Have a good new year's too.


Hi Carolyn:
Don't give up on journalism! Or at least on writing. Yeah, it's true, it's not what they call a growth industry. And if you don't love it, you should skip it. But I love it. And there's always room for people who are very good and very passionate about writing and/or reporting. And there's also the internet: lots of content needed there. My advice is a question: what do you want to do?
Meanwhile if you want an idea of my career (you asked about the kind of writing I do), you can check out It's only half finished right now.
Happy new year and all best,

It's kind of funny that I see a poem by Abraham Lincoln and an article about Mandy Moore as expressing a very similar sentiment. Drawing these kind of parallels are an example of the thought processes that keep me up at night. Worth it or no?

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