O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
America is unique in the history of the world. It is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people, accomplishing beautiful feats. Although quite imperfect, there persists a thread of greatness in the U.S. that still attracts more would-be immigrants than it can possibly accept.
Unlike countries tied together by common blood lines, the United States is a different model tied together by the principles of natural law. Our raison d’être is established in the Declaration of Independence. Every subsequent law implements the fact that all men, whatever differences they may have in skin color, talents, ancestry, wealth, or intelligence are created equal. That is, each one is entitled to equality of respect and opportunity, but not the equality of circumstances.
During two-hundred and forty-two years since the founding, this type of government and environment have produced men and women of uncommon valor, talent, and generosity. While the country has, unfortunately, produced criminals in the government, in the churches, and in the general population, it has also unleashed an unbelievable amount of creativity that benefits everyone. The fields of technology and machinery alone have transformed the daily life of people in every corner of the world.
Five times in the twentieth century, American military forces offered their wealth, their weapons, their time, their talent, and their lives to save people in other countries from tyrants. Today, on July 4, 2018, we at One Eye and Half Sense, honor that particular beauty – the beauty of selflessness.
Arlington Cemetery – Procession to the burial site.
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The US Cemetery at Normandy, just above Omaha Beach is pictured above. As you walk around the cemetery with row upon row upon row of crosses and Stars of Davids, it finally begins to dawn on you the enormity of the sacrifice that Americans made to save Europe in World War II.
Having talked to two survivors of the D-Day invasion, I assure you that those 18 to 30 year-old young men were frightened by what they saw and what they endured. And yet, they bravely obeyed in spite of their fears, in spite of trembling hands, in spite of vomiting at the carnage surrounding them. And where they could not obey original orders because of snafus, they improvised. There is no way to thank even the ones who came home and lived long lives, much less the ones who perished defending freedom.
This is the original quote by General Clark at Anzio, Italy. Part of it was carved into a wall at the Normandy Beach Memorial.
“On Memorial Day we visited the American cemetery at Anzio and saw the curving rows of white crosses that spoke eloquently of the price that America and her Allies had paid for the liberation of Italy. “If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: all we asked of Italy was enough of her soil in which to bury our gallant dead.” ” General Mark W. Clark
Another view of the Normandy Memorial Cemetery. American soldiers volunteered to die for their own people and for the oppressed people across the ocean whom they did not know and whose language and customs were foreign to them. They were idealistic young men who wanted to preserve freedom for others.
Over-view of the Normandy Cemetery showing the Memorial Building which houses artifacts and documents about the battle.
None of us are forgetful of other wars brave American soldiers have fought in since the decisive World War II: Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The United States has paid a high price with both blood and treasure in conflicts that some have deemed unnecessary. While God determines whose decisions were righteous and whose were selfish, the unique people of this unique nation remain loyal, diligent, and obedient even when sent on questionable missions because they “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
Photograph from the movie, Babette’s Feast
“In a world of disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
The picture above is the front cover of a CD
that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sold to the public
to commemorate Robert Shaw’s 100th birthday.
It is a recording of a live performance, not a studio production.
As a long time Robert Shaw fan, I was delighted when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began selling this CD of a live concert in honor of his would-be one hundreth birthday in 2016. I had become aware of the Robert Shaw Chorale while in college and had managed to snag a couple of their vinyl records even during those impecunious years. I was especially impressed that he was a self taught musician and conductor and yet he had already made a dramatic impact on the American cultural scene.
Imagine how delighted I was when he not only “followed” me to Atlanta in 1967, but also immediately proceeded to transform our newly shared music world while also raising funds for and building the Woodruff Arts Center.
Another reason I bought one of the first Commemorative CD’s available was that it was a recording of an ASO performance very similar to one that I had attended in 1984. I will never forget the exultation of the audience at the end of that particular rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth. I remember well how good it felt to clap, and clap, and clap, and clap. I actually wished that I had learned how to whistle because “Bravo” just wasn’t quite enough. And, for the first time I, the ultimate prim and proper introvert, had understood people who jumped onto their chair seats or out into the aisles so they could express their joy more dramatically. I have no idea how long the applause lasted. I just remember that it didn’t end until Mr. Shaw asked the audience to please let them go, “because there’s just nothing more for us to give after this.”
This is the back side of the Commemorative CD. Please note the last entry of content, number 5: eight minutes and 41 seconds of applause recorded at the end of the concert. Remember this audience was composed of staid, dressed-up, classical music lovers that many might consider somewhat stuffy individuals. They were sandwiched together in an auditorium after a laborious bout with Atlanta’s infamous traffic. In other words, they were a stressed out bunch of people as the concert began. It was not a crowd of young people mellowed out after smoking weed and drinking at an all afternoon picnic/concert.
It’s now standard for the classical music audience to rise when applauding at the end of a concert to express gratitude for the evening’s entertainment. But, it’s usually a somewhat dutiful applause, as people quickly begin glancing around the room to decipher just the how soon they can start gathering their things to leave for dinner or after dinner drinks and still be polite.
This eight-plus minute recording of applause also records people shouting “Bravo,” whistling, and demanding yet another curtain call from the conductor. This is a modern example of the Theia Mania we first read about in Plato when a single person or a group has been freed from ordinary concerns and aspirations, then lifted emotionally and spiritually to a higher level by the beauty of the scenery, a piece of art, a musical performance, or a theatrical production. At least for a few minutes, the audience and the creators become one in a joyous unity.
For more information about Theia Mania, relating to the arts such as poets, sculptors, artists, musicians, performers, and audiences, listen to Robert Reilly’s lecture on Josef Pieper’s monograph, Divine Madness, Plato Against Secular Humanism, to a group at the Institute of Catholic Culture: https://instituteofcatholicculture.org/talk/divine-madness/
PS: Through the centuries, diverse groups have used theia mania to describe lots of weird events. But today I’m siding more with Josef Pieper, to wit:
“Such patrimony is achieved and preserved only through a willingly accepted openness: openness for divine revelation, for the salutary pain of catharsis, for the recollecting power of the fine arts, for the emotional shock brought about by eros and caritas — in short, through the attitude rooted in the mysterious experience that Plato called theia mania.” (or Divine Madness)
Another PS: Yes, the CD is worth buying from ASO and it’s not that expensive. But, it’s not as good as vinyl – or the real concert. CD’s are great, but they’re a pale imitation of the real thing.
Photo courtesy of
“Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness….In this masterpiece, Gaudí [the architect] shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speaking at The Basilica of The Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain
Construction began on this church in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. Antoni Gaudi, the major architect, combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to create his masterpiece. Since his death in 1926, construction has continued with other designers except during the Spanish Civil War. The words from Benedict XVI were taken from his homily in 2010 when he consecrated the completed portion as a minor basilica.
Kaye’s personally selected “father,” Mr. Wilson, sits in the middle; next to him is Sunny. I do not know the occasion or the other people in the photograph, but this is the club where they ate lunch that first day.
Searching for A Father
Sunny’s daughter, Kaye, had a secret plan to find herself a father. Somewhere around the fifth grade, she began working on it, but kept everything entirely to herself for for fear that she’d be laughed at and no one would really understand.
After she began to realize that, generally speaking, the quality of bachelors the same age as her mother was not particularly good, she contented herself with analyzing her friends’ dads and mentally choosing which qualities they exhibited that especially appealed to her.
One friend’s dad was a great hunter who regularly provided the family with fresh venison and quail. Another father worked long, hard hours in the nearby oil fields, yet came home everyday in such good spirits that he seemed to honestly enjoy working and providing for his family. Then there was the dad who always managed to “need” an ice cream cone for himself and the girls on the way to take Kaye home. Another father she especially liked frequently brought the painfully shy girl into supper-table conversations by asking questions as if her opinion were really important. The only problem was finding all those qualities in one man who not only was the right age, but, who would also want Sunny for a wife.
Quite unexpectedly, she met him when she was a junior in college. Up until that time, she had managed to pay her education expenses through scholarships, working on campus or during school breaks, and with a little help from Sunny. However, toward the end of 1958, the Vice President of Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton – where she was an English Literature major – persuaded a businessman in nearby Temple, Texas to sponsor three girls enrolled there who needed financial help because of the loss of a parent.
Kaye was astounded when she received the letter explaining that she was one of them. The man would pay all three girls’ tuition, books, fees, room, and board. Plus, he would send each one a monthly check of $25 for incidental expenses. The only requirement was that they keep up their grades and work at one of the campus jobs available, usually about 15 to 20 hours a week. The scholarship would then be renewed each semester until graduation.
She immediately called the plant that he owned and made an appointment to thank the man in person. This was just much too wonderful for a mere thank-you letter. The money for incidentals would more than pay for the cab ride to Temple and back.
When she walked into his office, she met a charming man with white hair who appeared to be surprised at her gratitude since the other two girls had merely responded with formal thank-you letters. As they chatted in his office and later, at lunch together, she was surprised at how well he fit the criteria she had spent the last decade compiling.
He liked to hunt. He even leased land in South Texas so he could take friends for long hunting and fishing weekends.
He really enjoyed working – and often went back to his plant to check on the second and third shift workers. He knew them all by name and often knew their children’s names.
He was generous: took her out to lunch unexpectedly and spent time just getting to know her; offered her not only a scholarship, but spending money as well; and asked one of his assistants to drive her back to Belton, to save her paying the cab fare.
He was so interested in her that she felt safe enough to freely express her own ideas and was completely at ease with a comparative stranger.
And finally – he was not married. His wife had died. His second marriage, to a woman he had hoped would love and care for his three children, was a failure and had ended in divorce.
Back at school, Kaye immediately began plotting to get her mother to meet Mr. Wilson. If she could just get her to drive down from Dallas during the week, Kaye believed she could arrange for her mother to take him out to lunch to thank him for his kindness and repay the social obligation. The rest would be up to her mother and Mr. Wilson.
The trouble is, Mr. Wilson often traveled on business, and she had no idea when he would be in town. Or, when her mother would be available to visit the area. But the respective guardian angels must have adjusted the respective schedules because within a few weeks, Sunny decided to come visit Kaye on a Monday before traveling on to Austin for a business meeting. Furthermore, Mr. Wilson, was in town that same week and, although surprised by Kaye’s invitation, accepted the lunch date.
The rest of the story could have been written by any Hollywood script writer or even by a school girl thrilled by the idea of love and romance. After visiting in his office a few minutes, they left for lunch. Only he insisted that they all travel together in his shiny new car since he knew the town better than they did. Then he took them to the local country club to avoid any possibility that they pay the bill.
And the two subjects of this subversive plot really seemed to like each other, as their conversation easily ranged from politics to baroque art to business deals. The young match-maker barely managed to keep from smiling too broadly, for fear they would ask her to explain her “joke” to them.
And now, Dear Readers, I’ve shown you the many daunting, cliff hanging type problems this beautiful woman faced and over-came. Next week, we’ll wrap it up with the years of a new lifestyle.
Copyright by Kaye Fairweather 2018
Smiling is definitely one of the best beauty remedies. If you have a
good sense of humor and a good approach to life, that’s beautiful.