"It often seems that humans, given our immense variety, are intended to be in disagreement..." Michael Novak
From "This Town":
Tim Russert would have loved the outpouring from the power mourners [at his funeral]. And he also would have understood better than everyone that all of the speeches and tributes and telegenic choke-ups were never, not for a second, about him. They were about people left behind to scrape their way up the pecking order in his absence. • • • The morning begins at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown in a procession of Town Cars and shapely haircuts and somber airs. One after another, the holy trinity of pols, People on TV, and permanent Washington types arrives. Obama is missing a meeting with the national intelligence director. Sally Quinn, an avowed atheist for much of her life, takes Communion, which “made me feel closer to him,” she will later blog. Liz Moynihan, Daniel Patrick’s widow, declines Communion, on the other hand, saying she is “angry at God.”
**Washington eats up the dad conceit. Unusually high proportions of ambitious men—and potential male book buyers—love to self-mythologize through their fathers. John Edwards was “the son of a mill worker,” John Boehner “the son of a barkeeper,” etc. The prevailing social dynamic in Washington—a city of patrons—mimics the quest for paternal love. “Who do you work for?” is typically the first thing people ask here...“A man’s either trying to make up for his father’s mistakes or live up to his expectations,” Obama told Newsweek’s Jon Meacham that summer.
That is why so many would-be leaders say they are being “called upon” to run for president, and why eulogists lean so heavily on the trope that God runs an HR department that recruits people like Sunday hosts and yachtsmen into heaven. When Andy Rooney died a few years later, the CBS anchor Scott Pelley compared Rooney to Cicero and Dickens and certified that “apparently, God needed a writer.” (Apparently CBS did not, because Rooney had been pushed out a month earlier.)
Ahab’s larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted. But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound. Winding far down from within the very heart of this spiked Hotel de Cluny where we here stand—however grand and wonderful, now quit it;—and take your way, ye nobler, sadder souls, to those vast Roman halls of Thermes; where far beneath the fantastic towers of man’s upper earth, his root of grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique buried beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes! So with a broken throne, the great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid, he patient sits, upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of ages. Wind ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that proud, sad king! A family likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young exiled royalties; and from your grim sire only will the old State-secret come.*He was the elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those days were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At their flaming head he westward trooped it like that chosen star which every evening leads on the hosts of light. The flashing cascade of his mane, the curving comet of his tail, invested him with housings more resplendent than gold and silver-beaters could have furnished him.*the Yellow Sea lulls us with mortal thoughts of long lacquered mild afternoons on the waves, followed by the gaudiest and yet sleepiest of sunsets?*Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of [Lima, Peru's] cathedral-toppling earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the tearlessness of arid skies that never rain; nor the sight of her wide field of leaning spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop (like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her suburban avenues of house-walls lying over upon each other, as a tossed pack of cards;—it is not these things alone which make tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.