I had lunch yesterday with a good old man. He is in his mid-eighties. He was born in Romania and lived in the corner of it that touches Serbia and Hungary. A rough part of the world, made rougher by the rise of modern tyrannies and modern wars. It was a place where might made right. But he lived and made it through the war, just barely, he was just lucky, he said. Walked through Hungary to get to allied lines, finally came here, became an electrician. He worked, and this place let him keep the fruits of his labor. He prospered. He now thinks of his children (my age) and his grandchildren, plays some golf, talks with friends, and sometimes--as he did with me--talks with folks about the old days in the old place where where necessity ruled, and all men had reaching hands, and the only stories you could remember have to do with which marauding and creedless men raped and pillaged most. He is happy to be in a place that tries to reverse the maxim of the other place, happy to be in a place that says right makes might.
I then spent an hour or two reading Cormac McCarthys latest, The Road. It is about a man and his son walking in an America that has been burned to the ground--the country is a waste--where there is nothing else, just the two of them "each the others world entire." No other sign of life, but the lawless. "The frailty of everything revealed at last." This bleak painting forced me into another coffee and another stogie and I finally turned away from the horror to my love and hope and the upcoming seminar. The political crisis of the 1850s, giving up the philosophical cause, the apparent hopelessness of it all, the march of logic toward war. But even my moist eyes finally saw Abes words rise up from the sorrow and the fear and they began to heal my cracking heart. Wise and firm words, clear and full of right, and always touched by charity. I was reminded that the agony had meaning and he understood it. A remarkable country this, even good for old men with memories. The seminar was good, although I forced myself to use only words that move and heal and lift. Not that hard to do in such a country, with such a man.