I recently finished reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Near the end of the book, Godwin considers the legacy of Lincoln by recounting this story:
In 1908, in a wild and remote area of the North Caucasus, Leo Tolstoy, the greatest writer of the age, was the guest of a tribal chief ”living far away from civilized life in the mountains.” Gathering his family and neighbors, the chief asked Tolstoy to tells stories about the famous men of history. Tolstoy told how he entertained the eager crowd for hours with tales of Alexander, Caesar, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon. When he was winding to a close, the chief stood and said, “But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with the voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were as strong as a rock… his name was Lincoln and the country he lived in is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell me of that man.”
“I looked at them,” Tolstoy recalled, “and saw their faces aglow, while their eyes were burning. I saw that those rude barbarians were really interested in a man whose name and deeds had already become legend.” He told them everything he knew about Lincoln’s “home life and youth… his habits, his influences upon the people and his physical strength. When is was finished, they were so grateful for the story that they presented him with “a wonderful Arabian Horse.” After reading this, I thunk a few thoughts…
> Do we live the sort of lives that, to quote Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, would be legend-ary?
> Would others attach the Christ-story to your own legend?
> Reflecting on the Lincoln legacy, have we become so accustomed to the Christ-story that we undervalue it’s impact?
> Would we speak and tell stories, are they worth of an Arabian Horse?