Poetry and humor

Once again, Abraham Lincoln offers a case in point. His life was laced with the stress that comes from being hounded by darkness; high anxiety and high blood pressure are among the well-known companions of depression. Lincoln had easy access to an array of popular therapies, such as opium, the water cure, or visits to a mesmerist. And yet he rejected all of these ways of numbing or evading the inner darkness that he needed to acknowledge, embrace and integrate.

For therapy, Lincoln turned instead to poetry and humor – poetry to reflect on the human condition and humor to keep it in perspective. In this way, as his biographer, Joshua Shenk, points out, Lincoln “did not dampen, but rather highlighted, the essential tension of his life. He chose to engage rather than evade the sources of his stress. Evasion would have diverted him from “his desire to do something meaningful” with his life draining him of energy for the pursuit. 

From “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit” by Parker J. Palmer – Jossey-Bass