Twenty years ago I decided to learn about John Adams, the second President of the United States. So I read a big book. I thought that might slake my thirst for knowledge of this historical figure, and that the matter would be concluded.
But then I found myself reading another book on John Adams. And after that, I read a book on Thomas Jefferson to learn what he thought about John Adams. Then, I found a book on John Quincy Adams, and read it to learn how the son saw his father. What I thought would be a quickly completed project turned into an ongoing journey. I just bought a new book I’m anxious to read. It’s about Abigail Adams and her marriage to…guess who?
I don’t think this phenomenon ends with my peculiar curiosity about John Adams: nothing in my life ever truly gets done. For many years, I believed I was finished with education. When I graduated high school (without honors), I thought my schooling was complete. A few years later, I believed the same myth when I received my college diploma, and fell for it again with my graduate degree. It’s dawning on me that my education will remain unfinished. The more I learn, the more I want to know.
In a broader context, my life has been a sometimes serious, often serendipitous, attempt to “turn into” the guy I’m always thinking I want to become. Now I accept that my life is the life of the uncompleted, the unfinished, the “in the process of.” Put it on my tombstone: “Here lies Don Kuhl. He’s undone.”
I wonder if John Adams felt he wrapped things up in his lifetime? Maybe Abigail knows the answer.