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IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

This time the Interaction Design F‚Äčoundation listed a bunch of tips for making copy snappier and then asked us to rewrite something. We rewrote their example of snappy text: The Gettysburg Address. Then we wrote a little essay about Lincoln’s question: how to make a nation helpful to God. No real answer is found, a few wheels are spun, we skip out again into the sunlight, looking for a breeze.

Before Gettysburg Address

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —

that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion —

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

After Gettysburg Address

Twenty-seven years ago our fathers established a new nation, conceived in liberty and proposing universal equality.

Now a great civil war tests whether ours or any nation so conceived and dedicated can long endure.

Voici a great battlefield, a portion we now dedicate as the final resting place for lives here sacrificed that our nation might live.

Surely fitting and proper. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, consecrate, hallow this ground.

Brave soldiers, living and dead, consecrated it far above our poor powers.

The world may not long remember our words, but it can never forget their deeds.
Let us living men, rather, dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work they’ve thus far so nobly advanced.
Let us, rather, accept the great task remaining before us –‚Äč
taking from these honored dead increased devotion to what they sacrificed their last full measure;
Demanding purpose for their deaths;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Gettysburg Address breaks a lot of the rules here promulgated. It would probably not do as internet copy. Neither would my worsened version. The topic requires consideration. The speech’s poetic beauty opens up a window into one conscious moment’s confrontation with the great problem of his day and his life. By sharing his whole conscious space in a way ours can relate to, Lincoln shares with us his soul’s struggle with the motions of his world.
Lincoln’s question remains our own: how can spiritual values guide a nation? how can a nation be God’s instrument on earth? We know that individuals should empty themselves of all selfishness and let the Heavenly Light flow through and overtake their every word and deed. But when we think that’s what we’re doing, we’re often lying to ourselves, and thus–since the foundation of all spiritual progress is awareness–heading in the wrong direction. With a government the dangers of self-deception are even greater, hence the separation of church and state. But there is a difference between a government indifferent to spiritual values (ie: absolute values like “No, you actually should not lie–for real, that’s how things really are no matter what we little slips of passing fancies may feel or suppose.”) and a government separating church and state. You cannot make things better without following spiritual values (no other values can even ask the question “what is truly better”, since they are not absolute values, but merely unfounded assumptions), but so much trouble is created when people act like they are following spiritual values! Because they so often aren’t actually doing that at all, but are just using the notion of spiritual correctness to turn down the awareness of themselves and their fellows.

Abraham Lincoln did what he could. We all do what we can, given who we are and where we are. Reconstruction was undone. America is a work in progress. Our only hope is always the same: raise our individual and collective awarenesses to the point that we actually believe in and follow Goodness–not the word, nor even the concept, and especially not the swelling and sweetly sickening feelings we sometimes associate with Goodness, but real Goodness, that to which the word imperfectly but not therefore necessarily meaninglessly points.

But how do you do that? Clarity, honesty, openness, kindness, anti-corruption within the individual and every group, every governmental body, every business, church, artistic collective. But how do we do that?

Strange times, troubling times, burbling, gurgling, waterspilling times.