[On Monday, April 24, 2006, after my posting about Missionary Ridge, my friend Walt suggested I see Missionary Ridge. But it is too far and I’m not all that interested. Instead, suddenly I decided to see Gettysburg. Well, “I decided” it the way we commonly see it, but by this time I can tell guidance when I feel it prodding me. I went up and back the same day, Tuesday.]
7:25 a.m. Wednesday April 26, 2006
Wheezing a little this morning – just as I was wheezing, very slightly, on Cemetery Ridge. Just enough for me to note for later significance – for it is tied in to Joseph’s experience, I think.
I can feel that someone else is in the wings for the next part of this little demonstration. Come on ahead.
[Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:] Your tramping around the position at Little Round Top, and your buying a book about that part of the fight specifically, is as important as your recovering your emotional memories of the charge on the ridge. Your reading about my life – starting with The Killer Angels but continuing recently – ought to tell you that your connection to New Englanders like me needs still to be further explored.
I’m trying to sort out my feelings: do I believe that Joseph Smallwood knew Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain? Not that you are intimating that he did.
That was not the point, but it did provide a point of contact. Our theologies did not concur, but our temperaments were agreeable to each other, and our backgrounds had points of comparison and our wildly different lives made it interesting to each other. He was a little older but for that matter I was in my thirties, not so young for that army.
You know my mystical inclinations. I have sensed your mild amusement over what you consider my high-flying rhetoric, though it was suited to my day, and I know you recognize that too. You need to do your best to remind people that it really was a good cause, and it really did have great effects, and it wasn’t all corruption and politics and piling up of wealth.
You remember when you went to the cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, and saw the stature for the four sons killed in the war, how you realized that New England had poured itself into the war, life’s blood, treasure, influence and all. We didn’t do it precisely to free the slaves, though we came to that. We did it to save the Union. You were impatient with the ranger’s talk about Abraham Lincoln’s address there. Use your impatience to remind yourself what it is that people don’t see about it. We were fighting for you! Your world is as it is because of the men who died rather than give up the dream of self-government. But that struggle is never won. It never can be won, because until human nature becomes united with that something that is beyond individuals – some have called it God’s purpose, others call it destiny or whatever word does not scare them – until then, human nature will be such that some will seek for themselves rather than for all.
Your life’s task is slowly clarifying, is it not? Some battle in politics, some in wider culture, but you are among those who battle in the highest, least comprehensible of fields – the very field of human nature. And what goal could be more far-reaching or as intangible? Yet it is not chimerical. It can be done, and it will be done, or humans will perish and the experiment will continue elsewhere.
You say “you” and I presume you don’t mean me alone but rather me and any who share my preoccupation with bringing us to a new level of consciousness.
It is well to have it on the record, of course. Those who read this will know themselves – but they knew it before we said it so explicitly!
Perhaps I’m just defending against the accusations of grandiosity and self-deception that I can all but hear.
Hear, from part of your own nature. Some of your threads, you would say.
Mr. Chamberlain – “General” Chamberlain would be accurate but somehow doesn’t seem to suit you, at this moment – you seem to me to be one of those lives that one can hardly believe actually occurred. Like Mr. Lincoln, in fact. You know how people already feel about you, and I suspect that as time goes on your importance will continue to mount as people see that not only were you a model citizen-soldier but a model.
We are all models, one way or the other.
Well, thank you all the same.
You’re welcome. And I give my thanks on behalf of all my fellow citizen-soldiers to all those who continue the work – in my time, in your time, and beyond to times you cannot yet see.
2:30 p.m. My brother forwards, without further comment (what further comment would be needed?) this from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. “
–Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain