Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wouldn't You Know It!

Directly after suggesting that individuals buy a book and tune into a TV show, I discovered that both suggestions should have been made with caution.

After weeks of watching History Detectives, I was disappointed in last night's episode for 3 reasons:
  1. The detectives seemed to make many more assumptions than usual when trying to determine the cases.
  2. The show researched the first "natural" artifact that I have viewed, and some of the archaeologists began to talk about "millions of years ago." Creationism was never discussed. (n the past two months, the detectives' cases have focused on toys, photographs, certificates, books, and the like.)
  3. The show included some language that I had not heard on it before. It was, of course, much better than what most of us are hearing any given night on network TV. But, for those who are especially strict in what they allow to be played in their houses, it may not meet everyone's rating of "safe for family watching" which I had previously stated.

Last night, I also continued with my reading of Lincoln's Melancholy, and when picking up at the end of chapter two through chapter three, I realized that the book was touching on topics that may be quite uncomfortable for some. Namely, in this portion, the author focuses directly on Abraham Lincoln's talk of suicide and his much-speculated relationship with his closest friend, Joshua Speed. Just like I mentioned with History Detectives, it seems the author also connects some dots with assumptions that I cannot make - especially with the evidence provided in the text. While he is careful to leave some scenarios open-ended with possible causes or outcomes, he bridges gaps with theories in others. (Maybe these are "common sense" to those more familiar with Lincholn's life.) Either way, I thought the following note from the author was quite interesting - when referring to the phrase "that fatal first" - a quote from a letter by Lincoln, commenting on something that happened on January 1, 1841 that aided in causing a particularly severe bout with deep depression. No one seems to know exactly what this event was. Shenk writes, "Though it would be satisfying to know for sure what Lincoln meant by "that fatal first," the lingering mystery of the phrase serves as a reminder that history is not what happened in the past, but the best story we can tell with the available material. When there are conflicting narratives, we sometimes must admit our ignorance and live with the frustration."

While I would still recommend History Detectives to almost anyone, I have learned my lesson in suggesting books before fully reading them. If it continues in the way it has begun, I imagine I would recommend Lincoln's Melancholy with particular reservations. If you would like to discuss it before purchasing, please give me a few days to complete it and gather my thoughts. I am still anxious to see if author includes any mention of Abraham Lincoln's faith in God.

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