“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.”
Sunny and her children had spent four years daydreaming about the easy life to come — when Mother graduates. With no tuition bills or textbooks to buy and a steady income, everything was certain to come up smelling like roses.
And it did seem that way in the fall of 1953. Teachers were in high demand, so Sunny could easily pick the school district where she wanted to work. Ever the gambler, she selected Dallas, Texas, leaving some friends mystified and others angry that she didn’t return “home” to New Mexico. But having “conquered” college, Sunny was eager for new challenges. They found a small frame home in the South Oak Cliff section to buy and began life in Big D by mapping out nearby bus stops and grocery stores.
This unsuspecting newbie’s first assignment was in the same school in the same slum area that had produced Dallas’ most infamous young couple, Bonnie and Clyde, a few years earlier. Even worse, Sunny was to be the assigned auditorium teacher, rather than receiving the more usual classroom assignment that she had expected. It was her duty to teach speech/theater to groups of up to 60 students in 45- minute segments throughout the day. Most teachers who had gotten that assignment in the recent past, quickly declared a truce with the unruly students and allowed them to do whatever they wished, as long as they didn’t create a ruckus or cause trouble for her.
That particular solution, however, never occurred to Sunny. The first day of school she stood up as straight and as tall as her five foot, one inch frame would allow and assigned seats for each student for the rest of the semester, carefully leaving the first row empty in case anyone misbehaved and needed to move closer to her. Then she unequivocally announced they would study poetry and oral interpretation their first eight weeks. Furthermore, the best students would perform for a parent – teacher meeting in late October.
The students had wanted to like her because she was attractive and still fairly young, but poetry? They left those first classes shaken to the core by this unexpected turn of events. And none of them had ever performed in public before, even for a small group of parents and teachers.
She began their immersion in poetry by having all read Vachel Lindsay out loud because his powerful poetry is meant to be sung or chanted. As they gained familiarity, she added clapping, stomping, or drums to emphasize certain parts. Then some verses became solo recitations, or the girls chanted while the boys answered. And all during these days the students absorbed the emotion and the story in ways they would never forget because it became part of them.
The last verse of Lindsay’s General William Booth Enters into Heaven, one of the poems they learned during the first few weeks:
[REVERENTLY SUNG. NO INSTRUMENTS]
And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer
He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air.
Christ came gently with a robe and crown
For Booth the soldier, while the throng knelt down.
He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,
And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Later, they moved on to James Weldon Johnson’s The Creation. While all performed it in class, she chose only the older, bigger boys to present it at the PTA performance. Many of these kids had already failed a year or two, so she took advantage of the ‘problem,’ believing their larger size and deeper voices, would add gravitas to God’s soliloquy. Besides they needed a boost in confidence.
The last verse of Johnson’s The Creation:
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;
Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
And the last poet they had time for that semester was Langston Hughes, one of Vachel Lindsay’s proteges. Reportedly, Lindsay helped him get a better job than the busboy position he had when they first met, introduced him to a publisher, and assisted in several ways during those early days. Hughes became known as a Jazz Poet, a new art form in the early twenties.
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.
While schools were still segregated in Texas at the time Sunny taught, both white and black reached out, offering understanding to the other; after all they lived together in the same slums.
One of the most beautiful animals in the world – a horse.
If one defines oft repeated phrases as mantras, my favorites have slowly changed through the years from “pick up your toys” to “do your homework” to “remember that assignment is due Friday.” As someone who now mostly works with adults, I’ve again realized how much our own daily choices “make” our lives. We often think that each life is comprised of big, important occasions, but the it’s the day-by-day humdrum decisions and attitudes that inexorably weave the pattern called by our name. Therefore, my newest mantra is “Choose to walk in beauty.”
I’ve come to see that beauty in its various forms not only soothes our physical and emotional pain, but it also serves as a lodestone drawing us toward that which is good and true — that which will benefit us most. So these days I encourage everyone to consciously walk in beauty every single day.
Think for a moment. Striving for beauty simplifies all of our choices while subtly encouraging us to make better ones. When someone takes your picture, do you smile or do you frown like the last time you were angry? When a guest is expected, do you clean the rooms and buy flowers for the table? Or do you leave jackets draped haphazardly on the furniture and Lego pieces on the floor? When you’re feeling down, do you prefer someone yelling obscenities to hearing someone singing songs? Choosing beauty instead of exasperation, beauty instead of slovenly habits, or beauty instead of coarseness makes us better and life more satisfying.
The good news is that everywhere we look we can enjoy beauty without spending a penny. Flowers, lovers walking hand in hand, trees, sunsets, meadows, prairies, toddlers discovering clover, mountain peaks, snow covered pines, hod carriers working on a new city building, green grass, rocks hewn by the wind and water, autumn leaves, horses, and more delight our eyes everywhere we turn. Then there’s the beauty of music and numbers and problems solved and sharing new ideas, and observing kindness in action. Beauty is easily available for those who choose it.
I believe that just as fish are made to swim in water, we were made to walk in beauty. And choosing to do so brings us real joy, not mere pleasure. Walking in beauty means we have to observe and use beauty as a map or guide for choosing our pathway each day. Then that joy quadruples when we help others become aware of their own beauty.
It’s obvious to all that music is influential:
* Who hasn’t wept at the strains of “Danny Boy” or “Taps?”
* Brass bands playing marches energize every audience.
* “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has stirred people to action since 1861.
* “The Star Spangled Banner” rouses even tepid Americans as they recall the men who voluntarily gave up their lives to hold the flag a loft all during the night battle to convince the British fleet that “our flag was still there” despite hours of targeted shelling.
* New Orleans jazz evokes the bitter-sweet aspects of everyone’s life.
* Since radios became popular, each generation of young adults has fallen in love with the kind assistance of “Moon Glow,” “In the Mood,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “She’s Always A Woman to Me,” or “Thinking Out Loud.”
Five to seven hundred years after David used music to calm King Saul’s fits of insanity , the Greek philosophers opined that music education was necessary for young students in order to train them to control and direct their passions in order to live worthy lives.
A recent paper* by Dr. Thomas R. Lawson of St. Anselm College in New Hampshire illustrates their ideas: “Socrates claims that a good musical formation “tunes” a man, so to speak, so things that are truly good (as judged by reason), cause him sensual delight, whereas bad things (again, as judged by reason) cause him pain, disgust, or some other appropriate negative emotional or visceral response: “Furthermore, it is sovereign because the man properly reared on rhythm and harmony would have the sharpest sense for what’s been left out and what isn’t a fine product of craft or what isn’t a fine product of nature. And, due to his having the right kind of dislikes, he would praise the fine things; and, taking pleasure in them and receiving them into his soul, he would be reared on them and become a gentleman. He would blame and hate the ugly in the right way while he’s still young, before he’s able to grasp reasonable speech.””
So, 2500 years ago, the Greeks considered music education as a method of instilling moral values and helping their children develop into the best version of themselves. Our advances in technology have made music readily available to almost every one, not just the wealthy. Following Socrates’ and Plato’s lead, today earnest young parents play classical music recordings to their babies while still in the womb, but the idea is the same.
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.