Declaration of Independence a Declaration of Principles

The Declaration of Independence includes what may be the most famous words of the English language: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  The Declaration is not merely a declaration of independence but a declaration of principles.  For example the principle that all men are created equal and that if a government is harmful, then the people have the right to overthrow it and make a new one.  In fact the document takes the form of an argument.  Here are the basic steps of the argument it makes:

1.  There are certain human rights that are self evident.
2.  The purpose of government is to preserve these rights.
3.  If  government violates this purpose, the people have a right to cast if off.
4.  Great Britain has violated this purpose.
Therefore: the American people have the right to throw off the British government.

Here is the part of the second paragraph where that argument is set up:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Declaration’s articulation is so bold that the generations since have been inspired by it.  It quickly became perceived as expressing the fundamental principles that The United States was founded upon.  Lawyer and President Abraham Lincoln argued that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the principles of the Declaration.  And as Egypt struggles today, it remains the principles expressed by our Declaration that are always invoked as the guiding principles for a free people anywhere.  In this historical sense, the United States has remained a philosophical leader in the world.  We still champion these values (though we may also fall short in living up to them in other ways).

And the first signer of the Declaration was Bostonian John Hancock.

One Week On: Mostly Back to Normal: Shrine Honors the Dead in Copley

-Jon Cotton, Copley Square, Saturday, 8:30am

The FBI has reopened the secured area, and I’m the starting tour guide in Copley Square, the site of last week’s bombing.  In my last article I described the tense atmosphere of soldiers and cops with large guns and tanks.  Today, cars move as normal, symbols of war and the machinery of a nation in defense have given way to civil society.  A makeshift memorial has appeared at ground zero.

A crying woman is being comforted by a Park Ranger.  An outpouring of sympathy flows through handwritten notes from visitors throughout the global community.  Typical are “We’re with you Boston” and “Stay strong Boston.”  Entwined in the same scaffolding as these notes are hundreds of running shoes placed as symbols of solidarity.  Enshrined in the center are four faux graves with the names of the dead:

Martin Richard
Krystle Campbell
Lu Lingzi
Sean Collier

For the size of the crowd, the square is quiet.  The hushed reverence and attitude of the people seems to be illustrated by the actions of two nuns in gray habits, picking their way through the site, their faces alive with sorrow and compassion, intelligently leaning in here and there to read a scribble or absorb the meaning of a placed artifact.

25 second clip of the shrine

The shrine is no more peripheral to the heart of Boston than is the location to the geography of Boston.  Copley Square is the center of Boston’s Back Bay, one of Boston’s chief districts.  It is named for an artist who himself claims a centrality in the history of portraiture.  John Singleton Copley, the greatest American portrait artist of the 18th Century, was a (nearly exact) contemporary of Paul Revere and essayed the sole serious likeness of Paul that exists.  During the Revolution he went to England and is therefore often called a “loyalist” (i.e., loyal to England during the American Revolution).  Around here, “loyalist” carries the connotation of “traitor.”  But I don’t believe the evidence is conclusive that he was a loyalist.  Comprising about a half of central Boston, the Back Bay is landfill, used to be water; so the finish line of the oldest annual marathon in the world lies on land that was new when the race began in 1897.

In my last article I ended a serious discussion in a lighter tone, sharing with you something I heard, that some tour guides were using the recent tragedy as an opportunity to trot out a typical litany of American patriotic cliches — “they hate us because we’re free,” etc. — in order to garner tips from sympathetic audiences.  I openly toyed with the suggestion that I might try a page from their book to achieve the same result.  In reality I’m too serious and open-natured to be so cunning.

But it has been reported that one tour guide, whose name and company will not release, untruthfully informed his guests that all his tips would be forwarded directly to organizations aiding the victims.  He received a lot of money.  Although one may make more tips this way, such practice is entirely against the ethics virtually all tour guides, and all human beings, agree on.  As a (trolley) tour guide, some histrionic deception, role play, and pandering to the audience is tantamount to sophistication.  And the exact location of the boundary between “histrionic deception” and “honesty” may be debated.  But I think truthfulness about where the money goes may be an inviolable principle.

Marathon 2013: The Bombs Heard ’round the World

-by Jon Cotton

I was home when the bombs blew some people apart.  JR texted the news, and there followed a stream of concerned communications, so I updated my Facebook status to “Jon Cotton is perfectly okay.”  To my sister I recycled Mark Twain: “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Online I found mayhem and speculation.  My first reaction was to cry and become angry and want a fierce justice.  My instinct still is to want to know who did it and feed my false sense that I can personally go out and punish them.

I think most of us take the bombings very personally, but this site’s sports columnist has more personal connections to the event than many of us.  Before turning to martial arts, he was a competitive runner and a personal acquaintance of one marathon champion.  His recent article on the marathon of 1982 understates his personal involvements, but personal experience is behind the condemnation he expresses in the article he wrote for his own home website.

I was off that day, but I worked yesterday, the day after the tragedy.  In Boston there was every type of police.  There were even official cars equipped with sirens and emergency lights which were not, apparently, police.  The army was on the Common and here and there around town.  I joked to the guests that “Maybe the British are coming again.”  Streams of  Homeland Security trucks slithered through the streets.  There were tanks, or something like them, rugged, sharp-angled, black vehicles of steel, that said “State Police” in white letters.  Orange and white Coast Guard copters hovered around town and flew back and forth east to west.  There were officials with German Shepherds, and guns big enough to need both hands to hold.  There were men whose Coats read “TSA” chatting with state police, state police chatting with city police, and in general every combination of official standing around together with dogs and guns.  In the picture below the officer on the left is a city cop, the one on the right a statie.

At our main trolley tour stop there was a group with a dog and large guns, so I walked over and I asked “May I take a picture?”  The man said “I’d rather you didn’t.”  I said, “Okay.”  Disappointed, perhaps for comfort, I asked “I can’t pet the dog can I?”  He said “No.”  I said “Thank you,” and embarrassedly walked back to my trolley.  Later, stopped in traffic, there were two cops with large guns in front of the Taj Hotel so I shouted from the trolley, “Do you mind if I take a picture?”  And one said, “You might as well.  Everyone else is.”  So I took this picture:

policeIn addition to guns, tanks, helicopters, and dogs, there were hundreds of cameras near Ground Zero, around the hotels, and at the hospitals.  In front of Mass General there was a group of cameras and a podium set up with a dozen microphones on it, waiting for an important speaker to arrive as I rolled past with a group of tourists from Australia and England.

Jingoistic slogans (“We can’t let them defeat us!”) moved guests to fork over respectable tips to some tour guides, though not so much to me, being, perhaps, a little less cunning and sharp-eyed to such opportunities than some of my coworkers in arms.  But I’m working Friday!

On Gratuity

-by Delilah Webb

As tour guides, we fall in with a family of service industry brethren living on the gratuity of strangers.  Unlike waiters, most of us are compensated by our company with a “living wage,” an hourly rate somewhat above minimum wage that we can count on regardless of tips.  Some tour guides are paid a flat rate by tour, but most of us have a modest hourly rate.  The other portion of our wages relies on our clients, the people who choose to take our tours.   It’s easy to find ourselves in abject frustration with this dependency.  We tell ourselves that surely someone who has paid generously to take his or her family on such an outing has a couple dollars to spare upon their departure.  A customer’s choosing not to tip can be seen as disparaging and disrespectful, or as a sign that our services were somehow not up to the standard they expected.  Time and again, I’ve noticed that my peers’ moods are dramatically affected by the content of their tip basket.  I’ve rarely been similarly fazed.

For fifteen years, I worked a variety of what are generally considered “office jobs.”  As an accountant, I often found myself keeping records and spreadsheets in meticulous detail with the knowledge that the work I was doing was going to be thrown into a black hole.  The majority of fastidious number-crunching I slaved over will never even be seen by anyone else for more than thirty seconds.  The mind-numbing futility of it all inspired all kinds of existential ennui over the years, until my mid-life temper tantrum, when I threw my hands in the air, sold everything and moved to a small, affordable apartment, and reinvented myself as a Boston Tour Guide.

Every day I have an opportunity to make eye contact and greet people from all over the world, and to share with them the city I love, the city I choose to be my home.  It’s a limited, “single-serving friend” relationship that I see as a challenge.  In between the stories I tell about the history and sights of Boston, I have a chance to subtly and subliminally imbue in my guests my real desire: to be remembered and associated with their time here.  It’s that unique chance to be seen and heard and to make myself indelible on the lives of strangers that really fuels my positive attitude toward the work that I do.  Sitting in a never-ending series of office spaces with my spreadsheets never allowed me even a glimmer of such a possibility.

And so, we return to tips.  Never let it be surmised that I don’t need the gratuity, I do, just as we all do.  The difference between a good tip day and a lousy tip day may be completely out of my control, as we’re all familiar with the social and cultural trends in gratuity.   Whether or not my tip basket overfloweth at the end of my shift, I am nearly always able to put things into perspective.  Just as in all aspects of life, the world doesn’t tend to give us what we deserve, it isn’t “fair,” it doesn’t honor the kindest or hardest working or most honorable.  Perhaps we’ve all been given cameos and walk-ons instead of starring roles.  The difference between disappointment and triumph with one’s day can be achieved with attitude.  I treat my tip basket as if it were a report card graded by a teacher whose merit I doubt.  If I get straight A’s, I earned it regardless of the teacher’s opinion.  If I didn’t do well, it’s because the teacher was a distracted under qualified hack who didn’t recognize my promise.  Either way, it doesn’t change my satisfaction with the job that I know I did well!

The Duel in the Sun: The 1982 Boston Marathon

- From Old School

Each year on Patriot’s Day, tens of thousands of runners and more than a million fans envelope the roads from Hopkinton to Boston for an event known as the Boston Marathon.  Countless millions more watch this epic event on television world wide, as a combination of sport and spectacle unfold before our eyes.  In a demonstration of human spirit, runners from fifty states and a hundred nations leave Hopkinton and head due east in an amazing display of humanity that only an event of this caliber can match.  The 1982 version of this story was one for the record books and is still considered by many the greatest Boston Marathon ever; The Duel in the Sun.

Alberto Salazar grew up in Wayland, Ma, just a short drive from the half way point in the Boston Marathon.  As a high school runner, the Wayland High stud became State Champ, All-American, All-freaking-everything before his graduation.  After high school, he headed to the left coast to run in the footsteps of the late/great Steve Prefontaine in Oregon, where would go on to win National Championships and earn numerous All-American honors as a collegiate runner.  As a college and post collegiate runner, Alberto held too many world and American records to mention.  From 5,000 meters to the marathon, on the roads, on the track, and on the cross-country trails, it was widely accepted that Alberto was the best overall distance runner on this planet.  Prior to the 1982 Boston Marathon, in his each of his two previous marathons (at the New York City Marathon in 1980 and 1981) Alberto had run the fastest first time marathon (2:09:41) and the new and current World Record (2:08:13).  Some sports writers called him cocky, some competitors said arrogant, while others just called him the best.  But almost everyone in the sport of marathoning agreed on one adjective; unbeatable.

Conversely, Dick Beardsley grew up in Minnesota where he had a much unheralded high school and college running career.  He ran his first marathon in 1977, a relatively pedestrian 2:47 effort in Wisconsin that would give little indication that he may some day rise to world-class status.  By 1981, Dick had improved to where he won the London Marathon (2:11:48) and the Grandma’s Marathon in Deluth, MN (2:09:37).  Within the running community in 1982, it was believed that his 2:09 at Grandma’s Marathon was a fast time on a short (unmeasured) course.  Grandma’s Marathon and Duluth were the bush leagues.  When it was announced that he was entering the 1982 Boston Marathon, true runners and knowledgeable fans gave little consideration to his being a factor in the race.

I remember timidly walking into the high school locker room the first day of my freshman year; I knew I was on hallowed ground.  As a middle school kid I watched as the high school runners logged those long miles along the roads in my town through rain, heat, snow, and dark of night.  The local paper was filled with stories about their consecutive winning streak, an unbroken string of Conference Titles, and the State Championships.  I could only hope to someday be a part of a group like that.  I remember my first few races as a member of the JV squad; when our race was done, we watched our varsity crush one opponent after another…
About three weeks into that fall season in 1973 there was talk of the Northeastern Invitational, a cross country meet that brought the best runners in New England to Franklin Park in Boston.  (In 1973 there were no small/medium/large school divisions; just one start with more than 400 runners.)  The top runner at my high school was a senior named Joe Kolb; he was one of the best runners in New England and he was one of the favorites to win this race.  But there was talk of some kid, a sophomore named Salazar, who would also be right up there.  “How could this be?” I thought.  “No sophomore could beat Joe; no way”
That skinny sophomore from Wayland not only trounced Joe and 400 other runners that day en route to the biggest win of his young career, but he also put the rest of the Eastern Sea Board on notice that there is a future star in Massachusetts.

With the approaching Boston Marathon in 1982, Salazar was the heavy favorite; he was coming off a second place in the World Cross Country Championships, a recent 27:30 in the 10K, a World Marathon Record the previous fall, and in the Marathon he was, after all, unbeatable!

Beardsley had sought the guidance of Greater Boston Track Club guru Billy Squires prior to that 1982 race; Squires then began letting the press know that Beardsley was going to challenge Salazar for top honors in this years race.  Most folks in the running community, myself included, blew off Squires’ comments as just hot air; after all, Salazar was the new breed of distance runner, he was the world record holder, and unbeaten at the distance.  Salazar was a stallion that was bred for the Marathon.  Salazar was unbeatable!

Bill Rodgers, four time winner of the race, was looking to turn back the clock for one more Boston Marathon win.  But Salazar had Rodgers’ number; Alberto had beaten Rodgers several times in recent years at road races like the Milk Run.  Alberto had smashed the Falmouth Road Race course record just last year. Alberto was just getting better and faster at the marathon distance with each race that he ran.  Rodgers was a bit past his prime, and at 34 years old, he was not getting any faster.  Could anyone beat Salazar?

I was working the finish line at the 1978 Falmouth Road Race.  University of Oregon All American Alberto Salazar, just a few days past his 20th birthday and a week or so shy of starting his junior year, was back in Massachusetts to attempt to derail multiple time Falmouth Champ and perennial King of the Roads Bill Rodgers.  Rodgers was a huge favorite, but many of us tight to the running community knew that if anyone could catch Boston Billy it would be Salazar.  Waiting at the finish line in Falmouth Heights, we were in constant contact, via radio, with the press truck, which was feeding us an ongoing account of the battle between the veteran and the rookie.  We were informed that coming up the hill before the final turn, Salazar had finally broken Rodgers and opened up a small lead.  All of us working the finish line stared toward the course, but it was Rodgers who came into view first.  Apparently, Salazar had self-destructed in some way due to a combination of heat stroke, exhaustion, and dehydration; we watched in horror as The Rookie deliriously staggered home those final few hundred yards as one runner after another passed him.  At the finish line, Salazar’s near-lifeless body was carried off to the medical tent, and I watched as my friend was immersed in a tub of ice; IV tubes were plugged into both arms.  His body temperature had spiked to 107 degrees; his father stood over him holding rosary beads, praying, while a priest was called over to give him last rights.  Several hours later a group of us sat under the tents enjoying a few beers provided by the race sponsor.  Alberto was with us looking pretty damn good, all things considered.  Since my first Salazar experience five years earlier I had gotten to know Alberto quite well, but this day I learned something new about this young warrior.  He not only has a bigger engine under the hood, but he is also able to push his body to the brink of destruction, well past the pain threshold that would coerce most top runners to back it down a notch.  Alberto is a scary individual!
Alberto would come back here to Falmouth and win the race in record time in 1981.  He returned a year later to break his own record in 1982.  In between those two, there would be a Boston Marathon for the record books as well.

The day in 1982 was unseasonably warm for late April.  The noon starting time and 68 degree temperature were not conducive to fast times, so little was expected in the way of a course record here in Hopkinton.  The pack included Salazar, Rodgers, Beardsley, Ed Mendoza, and Dean Matthews as the leaders passed the 17 mile mark and turned on to Heartbreak Hill.  Beardsley took control and led the way up the first of the three hills that would peak at the 21 mile mark.  This is where The Duel in the Sun would begin.

The Salazar v Beardsley battle that began at the base of Heartbreak Hill would quickly leave behind the rest of the best marathoners in its wake.  The two separated themselves from the pack as they charged up the first of the hills.  Interestingly, it was Beardsley who was pushing the pace, while Salazar appeared to be hanging off the shoulder of the leader.  As the race moved deeper into the hills Beardsley appeared to become stronger; Salazar was either biding his time or hanging on with nothing more than good old fashioned guts.

When the pair crested the last of the three hills, the chase pack, which was too far in the distance to even consider, had been replaced by a group of motorcycle cops whose job it was to keep the throngs of fans, sometimes ten and twelve people deep, away from the runners.  On the ensuing down hill portion that would take the runners into Cleveland Circle it appeared that Beardsley was well in control.  If races were determined by facial expressions and body language, Dick Beardsley had this race already won.

With a mile to go, Beardsley still floated along with that beautiful stride that could give a cheetah an inferiority complex, while Salazar seemed to be holding on by nothing more than the grace of God and the notion that he believed himself to be the best marathoner in the world.  As the race neared the final half mile, the crowd grew so thick that the space left for these two warriors of the pavement was little more than several feet wide.  The damn motorcade of cops, none of whom have obviously ever run a race before, began some level of interference with the runners with their motorcycles, not to mention the fumes.  Due to the encroaching crowd and the motorcycle cops desire to be on television, space for running became a valuable commodity, and Alberto made his move; with less than a half mile left, he opened up a twenty yard lead on Beardsley.  The Wayland Warrior was about to show his Mid-Western foe just how we do things in Boston.  “Hey Dick, this ain’t Grandma’s Marathon and we’re not in Duluth any more; this is the big leagues!”

With 600 yards to go, one announcer mentioned that Salazar’s lead looked safe, while another commented the same thing about Toshihiko Seko’s course record of 2:09:26.  But neither Salazar nor Beardsley got the memo.  Beardsley dug deep into that reservoir of testicular matter and found something left in the tank.  Turning on to Hereford Street with a quarter mile to go, Beardsley had closed the lead to, maybe, ten yards!  Then, off the final turn and into the last straightaway, he pulled just on to the right shoulder of Alberto.  Salazar called upon that college track pedigree that had been honed over the previous six years, the same one that had served him so well against the fastest Kenyans on the tracks and the toughest Europeans on the cross country trails.  He found that one final gear, the one that Dick Beardsley (and every other marathoner in the world) didn’t have.  (It was an option that, in 1982, was available only on the Salazar model.)  Salazar opened up a fifteen yard lead over the final 200 to finish in 2:08:51 as Beardsley brought home second with a time of 2:08:53.  Both runners broke the course record by more than thirty seconds.  Four time Boston winner Bill Rodgers finished fourth, nearly four minutes back.

It was reported that, in the medical station after that race, Salazar’s body temperature dropped to 88 degrees.  Once again, he required several liters of IV fluids.  Alberto, who admittedly took no fluids for the final eight miles, would often reflect back on this race as the beginning of the downfall of his running career.  He has often since been quoted as to the damage that The Duel in the Sun did to his thermal regulatory system.

Both Salazar and Beardsley point to that race in 1982 as the beginning of their athletic downfall.  Salazar ran well on the track the following summer, but there after began a steady decline.  He never returned to his world class level.  He was just 23 years young at the time of his 1982 Boston win!
After his running career faded, Beardsley opened up a dairy farm, Marathon Dairy, in Minnesota.  In 1989 he was nearly killed in a “mangling” accident on the farm.  Between then and 1995 he was involved in several other accidents requiring surgeries.  Dick developed an addiction for pain killers that resulted in his arrest in 1996.
Currently, Salazar is widely considered the best distance running coach in the world.  He is one of the most visible and sough after coaches today.  He also survived one of the most publicized heart attacks in 2007.
Beardsley currently resides in Austin, TX where he is a motivational speaker.

Boston Celtic Larry Bird, who is considered one of the greatest players to ever grace the basketball courts, had his career shortened due to injuries caused by his rugged playing style and tenacious off season training regimen.  He often said that he felt he would be cheating the fans if he didn’t play all out all the time.  Boston Bruin’s Bobby Orr, who redefined the game of hockey, felt the same way about his injury shortened NHL career; “It’s the only way I know how to play.”
Alberto once commented on the negative impact that the 1982 Boston Marathon had on his running career, and was it worth it.  “I would have to say yes. It means a great deal to have won that race.”

It’s a Boston thing…

Old School

Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy

-by Jon Cotton, Boston tour guide

In 1638 Anne Hutchinson was kicked out of Boston for “antinomianism.”  Most tour guides are bewildered by “antinomianism.” is here to help.

“anti-” means “against.”  “-ian” makes the word descriptive.  “nom” is from Greek “nomos,” meaning “law.”  “nomos”  appears in “astroNOMy” — the “laws of the stars.”  “To govern oneself,” to be “one’s own law,” is to have “autoNOMy.”  So to be “anti – nom – ian” means to be “against law.”  But this “law” is not civil law or criminal law.  When 1656 Captain Kemble got caught kissing his wife in public on Sunday after being at sea for three years, he was put in stocks on the Common to be punished and humiliated in public for this flagrant infraction of the civil code.  But this is not what is meant by “antinomian.”  Thieves, murderers, breakers of the sabbath, and those who play dice may be vicious law breakers, for the Puritans.  But none of these evil practices imply antinomianism.

Antinomianism, roughly speaking, is the idea that conformity to law is not required for salvation.  Suppose some greedy sonovobitch is a total jerk his whole life, follows no moral code, and then repents on his deathbed and goes to heaven all happy and loved by God.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Because he didn’t conform to moral law during his life.  So the antinomian position looks unfair.  It puts people in heaven who should burn horribly.
The Puritans thought antinomianism was very dangerous because it told people you don’t have to be good to be saved.  They thought if you gave people a moral inch they would take an evil mile.  So Anne Hutchinson was dangerous and promoted evil.  That’s the basic idea.  For them, law played more of a role for salvation than it did for Anne, so her followers would have less chance of going to heaven because they were being fed the wrong doctrine.  The Puritans wanted to safeguard the citizenry against any doctrine that might make their salvation less likely.  That was a duty of government for them.

So Anne Hutchinson’s view says good character is not necessary for salvation.  This is to be “anti-nomian” — “against law.”  The opposite is to make law central — “legalism.”  Legalism goes the opposite way and says good character is what is necessary for salvation.  But then how good do you have to be?  Is anyone really good enough?  Can anyone conform to law enough?  Perhaps not.  No one is perfect.  People have weaknesses, secret needs and habits.  So we may need some “antinomianism.”  If you aren’t good enough but get the benefit anyway, that’s called forgiveness.  It seems like forgiveness must be required to go to heaven.  Forgiveness negates the necessity of the law.  It says you didn’t follow the law properly but it’s okay.  If in reality we’re all a bunch of greedy sonsovbitches, then we might need a bit of antinomianism to go to heaven.  This fundamental problem of Christian religion goes all the way back to the founding and continues today.  It’s an inherent logical problem of Christian faith.

Anyone working out this issue might see-saw back and forth and try to figure out a balance.  The history of soteriology (the study of the nature of salvation, its requirements, etc.) is saturated with this debate.  Even the average person often constantly tries to figure out how to judge people’s characters fairly.

I want to confess to any highly aware reader that I know this presentation is extremely simplified.  In reality both the Puritans and Anne Hutchinson had many subtle qualifications within a sophisticated framework.  Nonetheless, I think this simple tension in Christian doctrine really is the root that gives rise to the sophisticated debates which I have simplified.

People tend today to speak dismissively of the Puritans because we are socially more tolerant and consider our social philosophy superior.  I believe this comparison is correct.  I also believe that taken one by one the average Puritan was generally intellectually superior to the average American today.  Today’s American citizen knows (of) theories that hadn’t come about yet: the theories of evolution, gravity, relativity, etc. etc.  But they were more adept in their ability to assimilate a subtle concept.  Today’s citizens are generally handicapped in this way.  The antinomian controversy, although perhaps a display of social ignorance not far off from the witch trials in time and place, showcases reasoning skills that are too sophisticated to take place in today’s forums of public debate.  The average citizen today wouldn’t be able to follow along but needs “soundbites” instead.  That is part of the reason we are so bewildered by “antinomianism” and our tour guides are unable to talk about it.

At the core of the antinomian debate is a deeper issue native to the species.  We all tend to think some people are jerks and others are nice.  We judge them by how they act.  Sometimes we think that we got someone wrong.  And we also know that “no one is perfect.”  So we have to sometimes forgive.  But most of us have some general view about what is forgivable and what is not.  Even if you’re an atheist, if you were to convert to religion tomorrow, these fundamental intuitions and feelings you already possess will come to play a role in your view of how it all works, who goes to heaven or not.  But even without any religion we all have some innate theory of what kind of person is the right kind and how much they must have “values” (= “laws”).  The republicans for example are the “values” party and the democrats emphasize compassion, etc.

What makes the Puritans intellectually sophisticated and not to be dismissed is that even when their debates are embedded in religious assumptions, their fundamental concepts are universal.  Their minds naturally went to the issues that were the deep ones and went beyond their own culture.  They rose to the level of philosophy.

The Lincoln Memorial


– by Jon Cotton

I just visited Washington D. C.  The Hope Diamond, once in the hands of King Louis XIV, is on display free of charge; the Capitol Building’s magnificent dome is visible from many angles around the city; the National Archives building houses the actual founding documents, and the Crime and Punishment Museum displays “murderbilia” from all the most famous serial killers.  I saw the Watergate Building from a trolley, sipped elegant scotch, and met actual tour guides in person!

One of the most moving exhibits for me was the Lincoln Memorial.  Structurally, it is an ancient Greek temple, carved in the geometric ratios discovered by Greece to foster spiritual gravity.  Within the stone walls the student of history finds himself musing in  echoes of the dream, as — in the dimension of past time — MLK jr speaks on the steps.  The walls that flank the president speak in painted words:

Four score and seven years ago… gave the last full measure


With malice toward none…

For me Lincoln is an icon of courage, integrity, and compassion, as the monument is an icon of America, and, so America should be an icon of these values.

The statue and temple are made of beautiful white marble.  Lincoln is seated comfortably, but he’s not tired.  He is not forced to rest from weariness.  Take a look; I think it’s clear even in the picture.  The statue dramatically portrays a man prepared to move, totally relaxed, but ready for solemn action.  A statesman, the moral leader of a nation.  Look at the hands: relaxed, comfortable, confident.  He’s relaxed.  But, look, his body is tense.  He has the youthful readiness to hop out of his chair and act, but the dread gravity of ageless wisdom exudes from his face.

There’s a Roman symbol on each side of the chair which symbolizes the intention of the sculptor and also reflects the American harkening to Roman tradition so prominent especially in the period when Lincoln was born.  On each side of the chair, in front, there is a bundle of sticks held together by straps.  Such a bundle of sticks is called a “fascis.”  It was a Roman symbol of political authority and mastery.  Lincoln is a great master, like a Caesar perhaps.  It is also a symbol of unity, separate sticks making one bundle.  Lincoln’s great cause, the theme he constantly repeated was unity, togetherness, expressed in his word “union” — “preserve the union,” “fight for the union,” etc.

The fascis was also used as a symbol by Mussolini because “fascis” is the root of the word “fascism,” which rather overdoes this idea of unity, to the point where it negates all individuality.  That’s where it differs with our own tradition which through laws protects individuality and difference.  Lincoln symbolizes unity but had no desire, as Mussolini did, to crush individuality.

Lincoln is a symbol of moral character.  From Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in which Jefferson Smith finally stands on his convictions, to Lisa Simpson in “Lisa Goes to Washington,” where she, also, receives inspiration on the National Mall.  In Lisa’s case, however, it is actually Thomas Jefferson from whom she takes courage, as the Lincoln statue is sadly mobbed with irreverent tourists who thwart her immediate wish.

The statue was designed by Massachusetts native and MIT graduate Daniel Chester French whose 15th birthday was the occasion of Lincoln’s expiration.  People who first saw this sculpture remembered the man.  When French made the statue he first made preliminary models.  Here’s a picture of one at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:

courtesy of MFA

The maquette here depicted is about three feet high.  The actual statue is 19 feet high, sitting on a pediment 11 feet high.  French made other famous statues including John Harvard in Harvard Yard and the Minuteman Statue in Concord.

Lincoln visited Boston in 1848, when his eldest son was five years old.  Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) was a Harvard graduate.  He attended the dedication of the Memorial in 1922.  According to the National Park Service website

French was standing in the shadows of the east chamber one evening working on the lighting. He saw a limousine draw up in front of the memorial. With effort, an old man emerged from the vehicle and, with his head bent, slowly made his way up the steps. As he approached the statue he took off his hat and, resting on his cane, sank slowly to his knees. For a long time he remained kneeling, his head bowed, as if recalling memories that others had forgotten. Then Robert Todd Lincoln, the 83-year-old son of Abraham Lincoln, rose, walked down the steps, and disappeared into the night.


Robert died that same year, having become a prominent American leader in his own right and having been present at the assassinations of two presidents, and having been nearby when his father was assassinated.  The only presidential assassination since those three was that of John Kennedy, whose grave is positioned in the Arlington National Cemetery so as to command a view of the Lincoln Memorial.

In other statue-of-lincoln news, a heart-wrenchingly cute kitten got stuck inside a Lincoln statue in Florida but was rescued.

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Purim at Vilna Shul

courtesy of wikipedia

courtesy of wikipedia

The Vilna Shul is the only survivor of about 50 Boston synagogues from the jewish immigration period, and the only one in Boston on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s on the back slope of Beacon Hill (Phillips Street) which traditionally was part of the West End.  The neighborhood was filled with Yiddish-speaking jews who fled Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s to escape institutionalized orgies of persecution called “pogroms,” where governments would legally permit the populace to go to jewish sections and attack children and parents and destroy their homes and businesses.  The Vilna Shul was composed largely of orthodox jews from Vilna Lithuania.  “Shul” is the Yiddish word for “synagogue,” and is cognate with “school” (both Yiddish and English are Germanic at root – though, of course, English has since 1066 incorporated a lot of Latin words).

In 1931, Leonard Nimoy was born in the West End to Yiddish-speaking parents.  As a child he was fascinated by the orthodox jewish custom of blessing the congregation using a certain hand gesture, and as Spock on Star Trek he adapted it to become the “Vulcan salute.”  In his (second) autobiography he reports the magic the gesture had for him

The special moment when the Kohanim blessed the assembly moved me deeply, for it possessed a great sense of magic and theatricality… I had heard that this indwelling Spirit of God was too powerful, too beautiful, too awesome for any mortal to look upon and survive, and so I obediently covered my face with my hands. But of course, I had to peek.

A sculpted depiction of the priestly hand gesture can be seen inside the Shul on the Holy Ark:

courtesy of suitcaseready

courtesy of

I don’t normally celebrate the holidays, but Karen Lurie invited me to attend Purim service at the Vilna Shul.  The holiday celebrates the jewish escape from a planned genocide in Persia in about 500 BCE.  Many jewish holidays are about escaping persecution, and the jews who built the Shul in 1919 (and Nimoy’s family) would have related through personal experience to this  historical trend.  The atmosphere was lively and festive inside the Shul, which functions also as a museum where inquisitive Bostonians and guests may visit during the following hours:

March 15th until November 18th:
Thursday, Friday:   11am to 5pm.
Sunday:                 1pm to 5 pm

Finally, here is a short documentary about the Shul narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

Johnny Pesky: the Man Behind the Pole

-From Old School

I grew up watching the Red Sox, beginning with Car Yastrzemski and the Impossible Dream season in 1967 through the team’s two recent World Series championships.  I still remember Tony Conigliaro lying flat out at home plate after being hit in the face by a Jack Hamilton fast ball that same year.  I saw Bill Buckner take the blame in 1986, when real Boston fans knew the problem was in the coaching.  I watched Carlton Fisk simply will that home run back from foul ball territory as he side-stepped down the first base line.  I also remember asking my dad, when I was too young to know, why that older man is always sitting on the bench.

Johnny Pesky was an American hero and life long Red Sox, long before it was called The Nation.  He was Sox lore and he breathed Boston air; if cut, he bled murky Charles River water.  Johnny Pesky lived on this planet for 92 years, and for 73 of them he was involved in Major League baseball; for 61 of those years he was “Mr. Red Sox”.  So beloved was Mr. Red Sox by the team that he was allowed his own seat on the team bench, even after his playing and coaching days were done.  But in 2007, Major league baseball announced the enforcement of a rule that would limit the number of coaches that would be allowed on the bench, effectively removing Johnny Pesky from his regular seat in the dug out.

Born in 1919, Johnny Pesky (born John Paveskovich) shortened his name for baseball’s sake; it fits better in the box scores and on the uniform.  From 1942 through 1954 he was possibly the best lead off hitter in the Majors.  He led the league in hits three times, on-base percentage six times, and once in sacrifice hits.  He batted .307 lifetime.  Oh yeah, he did not play baseball from 1943-1945 because he was serving in World War II.  To say that this man was a team player is simply an understatement.

Pesky played for the Red Sox from 1942 through 1952 (except for the years 1943-1945, when he played for Team United States of America in WWII).  He then played for The Detroit Tigers from 1952-1954. He finished with the Washington Senators in 1954.  He managed the Red Sox from 1963 -1964, and then again in 1980.  Over the years he was a coach in the Red Sox Major and Minor League systems.  In his later years he served as a special instructor and assistant.  When not coaching, Pesky could be seen on television and heard on Radio as the voice of the Sox.  If Triple A Sox needed a hand, Johnny Pesky was the guy.  If Double A needed his services, Johnny was on the spot.  This guy was Mr. Red Sox, and in 2007, Major League Baseball passed a rule to remove Pesky, and a few other pesky old guys around the league, from the bench where the current players sit.

The foul pole in right field at Fenway Park has been known as the Pesky Pole since Johnny’s playing days.  Stories vary on the origination of the naming of the pole, but the bottom line is simple; this pole was named after one of the most beloved and underrated players in Red Sox history.  In 2006 the Red Sox honored Johnny by officially naming the foul pole what one million Red Sox fans already called it; Pesky Pole.  One year later Major League Baseball would ensure that Johnny Pesky would not be sitting on the bench in the stadium where the foul pole bore his name!

In Johnny’s later years he was a visible member of the community, making personal appearances and such for the Sox.  He was present for the ceremonies for the team’s 2004 and 2007 World Series wins.  Johnny passed away last year at the age of 92, five years after Major League Baseball disallowed him from sitting in his most comfortable chair.  By removing him from the team’s bench, MLB tried to ensure that Johnny Pesky would never again have that special view of the game in Fenway Park.  By naming a piece of Fenway Park after him, the Boston fans and the Red Sox ensured that Johnny Pesky’s name would be synonymous with Fenway Park, because that’s what we’re supposed to do for American heroes.

This past weekend, Cape Cod was shut down from the Blizzard with power outages, downed lines, and snowbound streets and neighborhoods.  My wife worked one shift that was 22 hours long at a local assisted living center because she didn’t want her client, a WWII vet (he was a waist gunner on a B-24), to be alone at any time during his illness and this emergency.  She would say that it is the least she could for do him after the sacrifices that he made.  “It is an honor to take care of him,” she said.  It’s also the right thing to do.

The Exacerbating Street Design of Old Boston

“They say the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse surveyors.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

credit to multiple Facebook Posts

credit: many facebook posts

-by Jon Cotton

When the Puritans came in 1630, they had a great grand vision about being God’s chosen people and establishing a new “promised land” etc.  Another of their great grand famous objectives was to avoid immediate death.  Harsh conditions killed half the Plymouth group their first year.  Shelter and food were first.  Public ways were not first. Nor, apparently, were they quite second.  The settlers labored.  And paths developed, unplanned, in answer to necessity.  And so they were not extremely organized.  No one on record says the streets were extremely organized.  About this facet of Americana there is no debate.  They were organized like strings of spaghetti in a baby’s bowl, or tangled threads in a ball of string – a fractal geometry.

There’s an old myth that goes back pretty far that says Boston’s streets were “formed by cows.”  This is of course ridiculous.  Though not designed in advance, the streets had nonetheless a fundamental sense: they connected the main nodes of interest – meanderingly, so be it – to each other.  But these centers of interest were human centers of interest; they were not centers of cow interest.  For example there was the market where a slaughtered cow might be sold.  This was not the kind of place a cow might be eager to get to.  In fact cows are not smart travelers.  They hardly know where to go at all.  They may taste great, but they’re really stupid.  In fact, no cow is known ever to have designed any urban street plan.  Their hooves make it impossible to hold a pencil.  The first real architect in Boston was Charles Bulfinch, much later, and he was not a cow.