Legacy for Us
wife and I recently went to see the movie Lincoln. It
was a marvelous film, one that showed the intricate workings of
politics at an important juncture in our history. Although I was
somewhat disappointed with the cameo appearances of Lincoln
in the plot (I fear that my expectations were a little high), it
was truly a pleasure to see. I highly recommend it.
As often happens with me, I found myself contemplating
the message of the film that seemed to sneak into my sub-conscious
below the radar.
What is it about Abraham Lincoln that so binds
him to the heart of Western idealism even today? I concluded that
we inherently recognize that this singular man carried the immense
burden of furthering our ideals about human dignity at a time when
they were greatly imperiled. From the prospective of our mission
at Chivalry-Now, he served humanity as a Knight Errant extraordinaire.
Beyond his own integrity of conscience, I have
no doubt that he was inspired by the nagging resonance of the nation's
founding document, which audaciously declared that all men
are created equal. The advancement of Western civilization
would have been hamstrung without that beacon of light drawing us
forward. The existence of slavery threatened that ideal even before
the ink was dry. Decades later, a tragic epoch of our history was
begun based on whether equality under the law would asset itself
The movie well documents the mindset of the American
1860s. Even those who considered slavery atrocious seemed to choke
when it came to extending the right to vote to women and freed blacks
. Their vision of the future and the implications of their own ideals
were still limited. As most of history will attest, well-meaning
people carry unquestioned biases with them even as they push their
cultures to progress. They may seem ridiculous to us today, but
they were blindly held as obvious truths by the best of freedom's
I have heard Lincoln described as the last of
the Age of Enlightenment presidents. Surely the meaning
and the eloquence of his words, based on conscience and reason,
and his struggle for the elevation of humanity bears this out.
But he was not perfect. We might feel repelled
by some of his earlier statements about race, although they evolved
significantly over time. Likewise, Thomas Jefferson sought
to rid the nation of slavery, even as he subsisted on slave labor.
Yes, there are contradictions difficult to explain. These men, moral
giants of their day, still had lessons to learn and prejudices to
As do we all.
None of us are perfect. As Companions and Knights
of Chivalry-Now, we commit ourselves to a quest defined by
moral conscience. We learn as we progress. We examine past conclusions
and sometimes make mistakes. That we do not all agree on every topic
provides proof-positive that we travel on a quest of burgeoning
moral integrity and good faith that is still finding it way.
If there is anything we can take from the movie
Lincoln to help us in this regard it is to do what
many of the characters portrayed did not. We must question
our own beliefs and biases. Question them not just
superficially, or with the distracting intent to justify them. Question
them to the core. The quest is a learning process
that demands that we confront truth with humility and an open mind,
or it is lost.
We are heading toward the possibility of something
grand in the moral advancement of human evolution - a Kairos
of unprecedented accomplishment. Or perhaps we are not. In many
respects, the decision is ours. We can tinker with small moral adjustments,
or lock ourselves into unbending principles that limit our perceptions
rather than expand them, or get caught up in ideologies that were
fashioned to support never-ending conflict instead of resolution
- or we can serve as true Knights by bolstering and
encouraging the integrity of human potential as global change occurs.
If we, who are conscious of those ideals, and honor them daily in
our thoughts, do not safeguard them and infuse them into the change
that follows, who will?
find ourselves standing on the shoulders of giants. Like Lincoln.
Like Jefferson. Like Gandhi, and Martin Luther
King, and John Locke, and Voltaire, and Marcus
Aurelius, and Boethius - and a thousand others who gave
to us freely that we might carry on.
is time for us to do just that.