Better Angels of Our Nature

The mystic chords of memory…will yet swell the chorus… when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.  From Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address Good ole Abe Lincoln with his quotable words. One set of words that often runs through my mind is from the last paragraph of his first inaugural address: “the better angels of our nature”.

The progression went something like this--I was praying for people, and naturally, on my list were folks who have died, such as ancestors, friends, family, others I have never met in this life. And that led to thinking about who we are once we have passed from this world to the next (‘cause, well, I don’t know about you, but my life experiences and energy attest to the conclusion that life goes on in some form after we have left this flesh behind).

Do we lose all the nonsense when we die and become our better selves? Do these ‘lesser angels’, our baser inclinations to sin versus our better invitations to holiness, joy and love, get sloughed off in the transition between this world and the next?

Then I wondered, hoped, that once we pass on to the next life, in some process I can barely grasp at, like vapors of a dream, I think we will become our better selves. Ourselves, yes, but better. Shinier, more true, unencumbered by faults and sin. Unencumbered by jealousy and resentment and anger, lust and greed. All the big and little faults that separate us from a more perfect life.

And, “mystic chords of memory” in that same speech. Ah, what a beautiful confluence of words. How brilliant was this American saint, this secular holy man of history? Isn’t it memory and imagination that builds us, feeds us, gives us strength to draw on and reminders of what to avoid? Memory girds us when we feel bereft of comfort; it brings to the foreground those moments when we once felt, whether fleetingly touched by the divine or filled with light in every cell of our being. Thus armed, we can endure, we can hope, we can pray.

And, become, the better angels of our selves.