“Genuine beauty liberates us in many ways from the force of gravity, drawing us out of the dull capacity of daily life. At the sight of the truly beautiful we are freed from the tension that urges us on toward some immediate practical goal. We become contemplative, and this is immensely valuable. We expand, and even our soul itself becomes more beautiful when beauty come to meet us, takes hold of us, and fires us with enthusiasm. It lifts us up above all that is base and common.”
When I taught at a university, discovering that most of my students never experienced any periods of silence during their normal day appalled me. How could they function physically, much less think, with noise surrounding them all day long? Did it affect their level of energy? Their ability to learn?
But they gladly shared their schedules with me and bragged of waking to the radio that had been on the entire night long, then watching television as they dressed and got ready for classes. And they learned to chat with friends with a background of music or broadcast programing going on all the time. Of course, once in class, they listened to the lecture, but traveling there always included the car radio or music from their smart phones through the wonder of earbuds.
Earbuds came to their rescue even in places that were supposed to be quiet, like the library. They never wanted to miss a chance to hear their current favorite music or radio chatter even when trying to understand some difficult material.
Silence in their daily lives could only be counted in minutes, not hours.
On the other hand, one of my favorite memories of my college years involved time spent silently looking out of my dorm room’s large windows, frequently around the twilight hour. My heart and my mind exultantly raced with the many possibilities that lay before me, just waiting for my selection. The experience was both calming and exhilarating whether I sat alone, engrossed in my own thoughts, or my roommate joined me in idle chatter.
The view was of a small park just across the drive from the dormitory. I treasured quietly watching the change of seasons in the foliage and flowers during the two and half years that I lived there.
The only time in my life that remotely mirrored that of my students was a particular period of heartbreak when I was left betrayed and desolate, after losing companionship, social status, and financial support. For about a year I needed the constant distraction of other voices in my ears because silence allowed me to mull over the myriad personal problems that kept me from sleeping.
But for me, that was an aberration, not a way of life. I learned to turn corners, win new battles, and seek different rewards. I found a different abundant life.
However, I still worry about my former students. While I hope their noise/music/chatter is no longer constant, I fear their lifestyle is even more widespread today and includes additional age and socio-economic groups.
“First of all, as we have already remarked, for science beauty is objective, ‘out there’. Among the mechanistic suppositions of previous generations was the idea that beauty is an inner attitude of the beholder rather than a property of the objective world. The awareness that the universe is stunningly beautiful wherever we turn out eye is now so much a conviction of our most productive scientists that objective grandeur is considered a warrant of truth.”
When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.
For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses, much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit, and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.
But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.
But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:
Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.
Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.
A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.
A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.
The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks. Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.
All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.
A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.
New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate. While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)
Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.
It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!
This is a lifestyle and informational blog for those writers who feel they are caught between being in the midst of struggle, making some progress and feeling stuck in the meantime. This blog will be interrupted with interviews from authors and self help experts that have already been there and impart their own advice and info. Think of it as deciding to live a bare minimum lifestyle to reach your maximum creative potential. Let's take this journey together.