Many who commented in response to last week’s blog focused on President Lincoln''s solution for temporizing anger. As I read through the correspondence from women and men of varying nationalities, and political affiliations, the widespread appeal of Lincoln’s values and convictions struck me. We admire Lincoln, I think, not as much for his height as for his depth.
By "depth," I am not so interested in the physical parameter – perpendicular measurement downward from a surface. Instead, I’m referring to intangible qualities that include thoroughness, insight, and the flip side of superficiality. Although it can have its place in preventing life from becoming too heavy, superficiality rarely adds a lot of meaning. I challenged myself to make a list of things that, for me, do have depth. Here are some of the entries on my personal "depth chart”:
1. Classical music. My definition of classical music isn’t era dependent. Sure, I''m moved by Beethoven''s Ninth Symphony and tickled by Mozart''s minuets. But I consider much of the Beatles'' work also to be classical. How dare I make this assertion?!
My father-in-law, who resides now in Boston, was born in Vienna. A young medical student from Singapore is studying with me in the hospital where I work. Despite our diverse ages and experiences, none of us, I’m sure, would need to hear more than a few notes to recognize the introduction to "Here Comes the Sun" or to identify the closing of "Hey Jude."
I think, also, that most members of our three generations would find significance in the philosophy expressed in "Yesterday" or the wistful recollections of "In My Life." I consider music to be "classical" when I perceive it as both timeless and universal. The compositions of Lennon and McCartney fit those criteria as do the works of Brahms and Mahler. Such timelessness and universality, I think, comprise tremendous depth.
2. The word "cool." Why is it that "groovy," "right on," and "phat" have gone out of common use, but “cool” is still cool? Maybe it''s because the subjective truth implied by the word “cool” imparts depth. When I label something as being cool, I’m offering insight into my dynamic priorities. What I think is cool today may not be cool tomorrow. For sure, most of what I considered to be cool yesterday is no longer cool today, but what’s cool today matters to me. Cool is here to stay, I think, because it reflects the values of the person using the phrase. That capability, I think, is not only cool but also deep.
3. The Bible. It’s not religious coercion that’s responsible for The Bible’s status as the world’s all-time best-selling book. The Bible exudes depth. For centuries, it has invited multiple interpretations from commentators of assorted faiths. Its stories are not only paradigmatic narratives but also prisms through which we can refract our priorities. Biblical characters are rarely saints. Usually, they are flawed by foibles with which the reader must reckon. Much like the term "coolness," the Bible functions in a dynamic way. Each time we return to it, we, ourselves, have evolved, so that we are gripped or troubled by different interplays, and we accept or reject different lessons.
4. Love. How could I not include “love” on this list? In fact, the concept deserves an entire post of its own, but for now I’ll make two points.
First, by definition, the word “love” personifies depth because it represents formation of a deep bond between the lover and beloved.
Beyond that, “love” signifies even more. Initially, when I married, I wondered how, as a busy individual, I would find the time for another person. The arrival of each of our four daughters augmented that concern. Yet as the respective relationships developed, I discovered vast repositories of love that refused to dwindle. Love isn’t limited by time and space. It can be created from nothing ("ex nihilo") and, yet, can be endless. That quality, I think, represents a profound and awe-inspiring aspect of depth.
So there you have examples from my personal depth chart. Today I have included positive elements. I could address, also, ostensibly negative sources of depth, such as pain and sorrow. Perhaps at another time. For now, I''ll invite you to dive down with me. I''m confident that you''ll find the plunge to be not only recreational but also revealing. What do you associate with depth? By taking the time to contemplate entries for your own depth chart, I believe you can deepen yourself as a person.
Until next Monday, Shalom.