Recent fads in history and biography have increasingly exalted the aridity of chronology and fact, and have, with some valid reason, rejected romanticizing and the presumption of guessing at the inner thoughts of historical figures. Unfortunately, the result has largely been not to demythologize the past, but merely to dehumanize and depersonalize it. As Roger Mudd has pointed out, 'Too many of today's historians [and biographers] ... seem to have forgotten that the writing of history is a literary art.
In the past few years, genetics have confirmed that the hunter-gatherers were not overwhelmed by the new wave of sedentary farmers, and that the first agricultural revolution spread well in advance of its first users, by contact and trade in ideas. Nice to see science catching up with economics and military history. Any economist could tell you technology spreads beyond its first adopters, even if they stay at home. And any military historian could tell you that, in a contest between people who hunt and kill aurochs and farmers armed with hoes, the smart money is on the hunters.
I admit at the beginning that 'popular religion,' 'demotic religion,' the pieties of the common folk, tends to sink to the lowest common denominator, be it in syncretizing saints with old, half-forgotten pagan godlings, or in preferring the nasal whine and the revivalist shoutin' to solid sense and learning, regarding intellect as positively inimical to the workings of the Holy Ghost. But it is in American religious life, especially Protestant American religious life, that things bottom out completely.
Regarding 'Jabez's Prayer', I will say at once that I am a very poor Christian, and indeed a bad man. My besetting sins are many, and the least of them are the fleshlier ones: the really deadly ones are pride and intellectual arrogance. But I can honestly say I have never sunk to confusing prayer: the soul's colloquy with the Creator, mortal man's dialogue with the Deity: with magical incantation and the ritual of the 'spell.
In answer to 'But violence hasn't solved anything!'The hell it hasn't. The application of violence - of killing and a willingness to be killed - on a massive scale is responsible for a lot of solutions. The most recent mass application of violence liberated Kuwait. The most recent mass application of violence on a global scale alone cleansed the world of the Third Reich. Nonviolence and passive resistance did less than nothing to stop Hitler and his henchmen. The Atlantic slave trade wasn't stopped by 'dialogue' or 'passive resistance' or conferences, but by the opened gunports of the Royal Navy; Dachau and Chang-I weren't liberated with pamphlets.
After all, Christmastide is the time of year for warming brandies, for assertive burgundies and meaty Medoc wines, and for gladsome whiskies. And an Islay malt: well, this is the octave of St Andrew, and you will doubtless recall that he is not only the patron saint of Alba, of Scotland, but was also a fisherman. How better to toast my favorite apostle (he being all the things I personally am not, starting with humble and self-effacing) than with the sea-salty dram of an Islay whisky?
Show me you care about our common tongue. Bring to your [writing] passion, deeply informed by knowledge of your subject. Stay me, not with apples and flagons, but with wit and grace, humor and intense caring about your discipline. Don't slack, don't give it a lick and a promise, don't make it evident that you posted what was 'good enough for government work,' don't try and fake it. Give it your best, your all, not for pence, but for the love of the craft. Do these things, as these writers and scores I have not named do, bring to your work your self, your heart, your voice, motherly or youthful, lawyerly or priestly, conservative or liberal, it matters not. Do this and I and hundreds of others will return again and again to your work, not merely because we may have a burning need for a new printer or an abiding interest in college newspapers or what have you, but because we wish to spend time with your mind and voice.