Sunday, February 2, 2014

Adams, Jefferson, John and Paul

As part of my winter in New York ritual, I select meatier books to read during the extreme cold.  In past years, I was able to work through some long Michener novels; this year, I am working through David McCullough’s “John Adams”.  Prior to this I had done some reading on Jefferson individually (I believe it was, “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History” by Fawn M Brodie) as well as collectively in Joseph Ellis’ “Founding Brothers”.  When considering John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, I find a striking resemblance to the relationship and personalities of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

First the personalities:  If one were to use words to describe John Lennon, they would likely use terms like “a dreamer,” “out there,” “charismatic” and so forth.  Similarly, I would consider Jefferson in many ways to have been somewhat of a dreamer, perhaps a visionary of utopian government and individual freedoms without necessarily being bothered with the devil in the details.  Both championed individual liberties, yet it may be said neither necessarily lived the life of Mother Theresa to accomplish the goal.  Lennon sang, “…imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can…” and while he may have imagined it, he didn’t give up his posh Dakota apartment to feed the poor.  Similarly, Jefferson imagined individual equality and liberty, yet he did not apply it to the slaves that he owned, nor did he take action to downsize Monticello.  The evidence would suggest that neither Lennon nor Jefferson was particularly a fan of organized, formal religion, although I believe the social environment of the time permitted Lennon to be a bit more vocal.  Despite criticisms that can be applied to both Jefferson and Lennon, they both possessed an aura that inspired others and transcended their personal shortcomings allowing them to be loved and cherished by many.

When one thinks of John Adams, words like resolute, uncompromising, stalwart, steadfast, maybe even boring may be applied.  It may be said that Jefferson was visionary to see a big picture all at once; Adams, too, saw a big picture, but very much saw this picture as the sum of its parts.  Adams was very much into the details; he was a consummate technician.  It may be said and credited to Adams for providing the grounding necessary for the country to succeed and flourish during a very vulnerable period of transition.  Similarly, I suspect Paul provided a grounding effect for a period of time to John L and the Beatles.

Both relationships may be viewed as dynamic and ever changing.  Were John L and Paul friends?  Probably…sometimes…all things considered…in the end…  Was Adams and Jefferson friends?  Same answer.  In both cases the bond of friendship waxed and waned.  In both instances, each was an active collaborator and it may be postulated, each was important in making the other better.  In both sets of relationships, egos and jealousies arose.

I wonder today, who was the walrus of 1776?

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