Abraham Lincoln as he was.

I am not a fan of colorization.

When Ted Turner raised the specter of “colorizing” Hollywood classics back in the day (I’m pretty sure “the day” here refers to the early-mid 1980s), I was horrified. Scandalized. You do not take an artist’s work and scribble on it with your magic markers, because you think it might make you some money. Just: No.

However, I am an enormous fan of found-color-photography, such as these stunning photos out of a Wyoming internment camp for Japanese Americans or these equally stunning shots of small-town American life, circa 1939-1943 — that is, color photography that few people guessed existed, and which provide us a much better glimpse into the lives that people actually lived.

And then I recently found a colorized picture of our sixteenth President, and it did my head in.

I’ve seen colorized photographs of Abraham Lincoln before, and my response has always been — Just: No.

Either he looked like someone had applied rouge, or I felt someone was essentially making fashion choices for someone they’d never met, or – whatever. Just: No.

But something about the subdued, very realistic rendering of the coloring of his face and hair, and the fact that his suit has been left a crisp (and, by my lights, appropriate) black had me just staring at this picture, and suddenly seeing everything I know about Lincoln in color. His wife, his children, his walk to his law office in Springfield, the drapes in the White House. It made him – bigger, somehow. Fuller. More real? More real. Because that Legendary Lincoln we’ve built lives in black and white — but Lincoln lived in color.

So anyway, here’s the shot – I’ve printed it out, and it now hangs right next to my desk. I wish I could hear his voice, too.

Do you know what a metaphysical can of worms this portal is?*

It came to me recently that there are a few people who I would really, really like to be, just for a day.

And by “be,” I mean: Be in their head, be able to do what they do and think what they think, but also maintain my own independent thoughts and memories. That’s not too much to ask, is it? I mean honestly. What’s the point of being someone you admire if you’re just — you know — that person? You’re just them, then! You need to be able to mentally step back and go all Keanu on the experience — “Whoaaa…”, the you-mind says, even as the other person’s them-mind continues to do its fabulous thing. Surely you see what I mean.

So, without further ado, forthwith, some people in the them-minds of whom I would like to reside for a day or two, if technology should someday allow it:

  1. Eric Clapton – I want to feel what he feels when he plays guitar. I want to look down at those strings and see them more with my fingers than with my eyes. I want whatever vibration that goes through his brain to go through mine, for one day. Preferably on a day that he gets to go on stage.
  2. Abraham Lincoln (look, really. At this point, you’re going to say that dead people are too much of a stretch in this exercise?) – I want to know, to really know, what he thought and felt about 100 different things, not least slavery, not least his wife, not least himself. He has become such a touchstone, such a mirror into which we all look in order to find ourselves (or to find that which we reject) that I’m just too painfully aware of all the filters that the scholarship and even his own words go through, here in the 21st century.
  3. A fashion designer (name one. As long as he/she is wildly talented and recognized for that talent) – The ability to glance down at a length of fabric and not just know with certainty that you won’t utterly destroy it at some point in the sewing process (and yes, I do too sew! Infrequently and without any confidence), but also to be able to envision how you will shape that fabric into a thing of utilitarian beauty? That’s frankly even more foreign to me than the Eric Clapton thing.
  4. Rachel Maddow – Almost regardless of the fact that I agree with nearly everything she says, her ability to just drill down, in mere minutes, to the purest heart of almost any matter, and then pull together all of her vast array of knowledge to draw the bigger picture at the heart of which that heart stands? I’m in awe of that. In awe and very jealous. It’s what I’ve always aspired to do — to the extent that I even have any kind of Life Dream, that’s it — and while I will admit that I have my good days, I’m no Rachel Maddow.
  5. A Daily Show writer – Kind of for the same reason that I want to be Rachel Maddow — because let’s face it, 8 times out of 10, they arrive at something that either never occurred to me or had only barely brushed across my brain pan — but because they do it funny. I’m funny — I can be very funny, I know this. But again: Not like that. I wish I could feel the pop and sizzle that goes through those brains (just one of them!) on the way to that kind of comic genius, for just one day.
  6. An ancient Egyptian (or Sumerian. I’m MidEast-flexible) – What was that humanity like? What would I recognize, what would be entirely and utterly beyond my ken? What foods would I eat, how would love be understood, what would I see when I looked up into the heavens? I might need more than a day for this one.

People in the heads of whom I would never like to step foot, thank you very much:

  1. The Biblical figure of Sarah – She’s barren at a time when women have no value unless they breed, her husband lies and says she’s his sister so she’s taken into Pharaoh’s harem for a time, she watches her husband have sex/conceive with someone else, finally conceives when she’s a gazillion years old and clearly already pretty embittered, and then her husband tries to kill their only child. Which day would you choose?
  2. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman – Part of me would actually find this fascinating, but a larger part of me would likely be horrified and possibly find the very foundations of her faith shaken. Yeah… no.
  3. Barack Obama – Are you kidding me? Being President, and in particular, being the current President? Sounds terrifying. And like both of our heads would ache, all day long.

*Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) in the movie Being John Malkovich, which movie is in no way like what the above delineated experience would be like. At all.

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