You play with ace and diamond, bat and ball, horse and track, gun and fowl, but, frolicsome Americans, is there not a finer game to be played? You exalt brief shows of strength or cunning but sigh impatiently at any talk of wisdom or grace. And from the wild new-world grandstands with their sunlit bunting or from the seats of high office, you guffaw at ugly misfortune and whisper nasty things behind the backs of the abandoned and lonely. And you mock those who desire to be awash in infinity, who want to shrink themselves for just a moment to a mere mote of dust in the vast and intemperate desert of this world, if only to see for just a moment that we are ALL mere motes, one no bigger or more beautiful than any other.
From “Letter from the Pleasant View Baptist Church” (Morganton, North Carolina, 1910)
I find it remarkable how Meingast’s voice resonates to this day, and is perhaps even more poignant now than ever.
It has been brought to my attention that a discarded draft of that letter has been found. The following was crossed out in that version:
“You play with ace and diamond, bat and ball, horse and track, gun and fowl, but is there not a finer game to be played? What if you became unshuttered and were shown that all the play and the history of this wild new world playhouse are all but beams from your own tremulous ‘I’? Alas, there is illusion that shall detract and distract even God’s precious elect”
And from the same discarded draft:
“Americans are fond of proleptic loveliness. They link hands and walk in stomping clusters, eyes fixed on the end of time.”