Lincoln Memorial

Rab knew Washington DC like the back of his hand. Spending a dozen or so summers there, it had all became a bit ‘old-hat’. He and Lincoln went way back, he had stood there and gazed, camera in hand time and time again, vying for the best angle, trying to capture that ever-illusive shot. It’s horrible shooting statues. Always that same god-awful angle, looking up, in reverence, but that’s why they build statues so high.

He posed; his friend was clueless as to how to use the camera, it was an old Minolta SLR. He counted to three but clearly pressed the shutter release on 1 thinking it would autofocus like a digital. The moment was captured, an out of focus tourist scratching his nose in front of Abraham Lincoln. That was all it took, a small button pressed two seconds too early and a few millimetres out of focus.

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When Rab would get home, he would have his photos developed, and looking through them, he would notice something very strange about this photo. For the first time he would actually notice that there was a statue in the background. He would notice it because it was in focus and he was not. He would notice a million details he had never noticed before. How long had he been doing this? Flicking through life’s moments worried so much about getting the right photo of it. Where had this vanity come from? He would become angry with himself, what right did he have to be in this photo? What vainglorious nonsense had overcame him to be centre shot and focus of such an impeccable and grandiose statue.

Had he stood shoulder to shoulder with Narcissus, unable to see beyond the reflection of his own image?

At its very core Rab had failed to take in the statues magnificence. Just like a young boy, too stupid to understand the history of what was before him, the magnitude of what Lincoln had achieved. They hadn’t taught him that in school, how to appreciate history, only how to write the correct sentences, in the correct formations, with the correct dates to get the correct grades.

But he didn’t know any of this at the time, and he waited his turn to get his shot when there were no tourists in sight. He rushed on up to make his pose and the shot was taken. He was happy, he thought he had the correct shot to match all the correct knowledge in his correct mind. He even stood in front of the monument and showed off to his friend how much he knew about Lincoln. He knew nothing, not about Lincoln, and in a twist of irony he had completely miss understood his favourite quote.

Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. – Abraham Lincoln.

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