Writing Lincoln

I’ve starting doing something new with one of my favorite and most requested sessions, Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man. Each time before I conduct the session, I copy out, by hand, the Gettysburg Address.

It’s fifteen of the best non-family minutes I’ll spend on any given day.

For the time it takes to copy it down, I’m doing something that Lincoln did, that he actually, physically, mentally, did. He wrote down those words. I write down those words.

Sure, it’s not exactly the same. It can’t be. It won’t be. It shouldn’t be. But it does take you significantly deeper into the experience than you would otherwise go. Reading it, hearing it, they aren’t the same as writing it. And for that reason, I strongly suggest you take a quarter of an hour or so and write the speech down on a blank sheet of paper.

Here’s what happens to me when I do so.

First, I’m immediately aware that these are words out of use. I don’t hear or read them from most leaders today.

Second, I’m writing words that are longer and more complex than the ones we normally read or hear, speak or write. Multiple syllables, intricate meanings, specific yet subtle definitions, these are the elements of words that require a lot of leader and follower alike.

Third, I’m aware of traveling with the words. They take me to an ever-smaller sense of the place where they’re originally spoken. This movement is from sprawling acreage to a patch of ground. But at the same time, the shrinking space runs alongside a rising level or plane of thought and meaning. I’m going smaller so that I can go higher.

Fourth, my writing of words shifts into construction of phrases, sections, and sentences. A wholeness begins to take shape, at least in the sense of pieces taking on a completeness of their own while fitting together with one another into something bigger.

Fifth, again in a sort of pairing, as I write and feel the shaping of ideas I become aware that they are drawn from lives that were real, touchable, visible. They are like me but then they are not me. We are apart. They are done. They remain. We are not done. We do not remain. The sod and grass will take them over and remove them from all remembrance. From the invisible and inaudible we try to stitch what we can hold and may be able to pass along when ready. From the thought came the deed, and from the deed comes the thought.

Sixth and last, at least on this day, in the final moment I write the cadence and the call. It is over. The words drift in the air and sink in the mind. Can a light burn forever?

These are only my thoughts. Pay whatever attention to them you wish—much, some, or none at all. But pay closest heed, strictest attention, to my urge for you to write down the words for yourself. Give yourself that gift.

I’m increasingly drawn to sensory learning. I can’t always design sessions to use a range of senses, but I can look for every opportunity to do so. I do this in the Walkshop; you can, too. I do this in writing down the Gettysburg Address: you can, too.