I’ve had plenty of people ask me what I’m doing for “the 4th” (it’s interesting how a little international travel can make you sensitive to how many people don’t celebrate the 4th of July 🙂 ). My only plan was to workout, sadly. I could barbeque, but I’d have to do vegan stuff too, and it’s hot, and… you know the drill.
Anyway, I started thinking about what this day meant to the founding fathers. After all, this was a time of great change and upheaval for the colonies – separating from Britain to become their own independent state was no small task. Doing some research, I found this quote, a letter written by John Adams to his wife, Abigail:
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
Ah, so close! If any were “a betting man” in those days, I’m sure they would have bet on Adams. The presses would have already printed the headline – “Adams was right! It’s all about July 2!”
I’m pretty sure that July 2 passed this year, just as every other with the biggest thought on everyone’s mind, “I can’t wait until July 4!”
John Adams could be rolling in his grave. “America – how can you not know your history? Don’t you know that the declaration was only the documenting of what Congress toiled long and hard over and finalized 2 days earlier?” In reality, I don’t think he is rolling.
Sure, his statement was off, but the sentiment goes on. We do celebrate what was done and are not so caught up in the specific details. Freedom was declared, fought for and won. Yes, in the annals of history, it is important to know all the specifics so we know we are celebrating the right thing (after all, we could be part of Canada, right?).
Years ago, my son and I were in a play. As we were in rehearsal, there were things that we all thought were the funniest parts, and we just knew the audience would roll when we reached those parts. To our surprise, the audience found different things funny, emotional, etc. We could have focused all our attention on the fact that they missed what we found so funny. Better yet, we just joined with them in their enjoyment of the entire production.
Mistakes are tough, especially for Type-A’s like me. We don’t like anything that can come back to us as a wrong idea, bad turn, misstep or a slip in judgment. Even something simple as John’s declaration, in the wrong situation could have taken him out. Had he known that the entire world would be reading his personal letters to his wife (wow… kinda puts government wiretapping into perspective…) he might have felt the need to make good on his statement about July 2.
But it’s only a mistake because of our focus and lifestyle of judgment… our need to be declared “right”. While I do believe in right and wrong, I think much of life is much more colorful. We learn more by what doesn’t go our way than what does, if we are willing. I started this post thinking I knew enough of the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, only to find that I had to change the scope of it when I learned the real timeline. AAUGH! Mistake!… No, just learning and adapting. I could imagine John Adams looking down through history at all the July 4th celebrations and saying “well, I didn’t quite expect it to look like this, but that’s ok”.
It is interesting that this day, and this post is really about freedom. Not getting caught up in things that others may put on us, as Great Britain did to the colonies, or even things we put on ourselves. The past is not to be a cage, but rather a springboard (yes, I am listening to myself…). In the end, it may be less about the details, and more about the audience who enjoys the entire play.
So celebrate the day, the occasion, and the new learning that comes from all of it. Celebrate freedom to make mistakes and be immediately free from them. Celebrate that life is a constant colorful array of learned experiences, that allows us to look back on any situation and say “I didn’t expect it to look this way, but that’s ok”.
If you are interested in getting the full letter John wrote to his wife, you can find it here:
Alina Tugend puts pen to paper to show us that mistakes don’t have to be that bad