Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A few random thoughts

I work at a private school. During second period (at 9:15 instead of a more appropriate time) we had an all school assembly. Our Head of School gave a speech that, as usual, could not resist the temptation of the first person singular pronoun, and referred to CS Lewis as "the philosopher and author of the Chronicles of Narnia." We were informed that the chapel would be open all day for "quiet reflection" and then we processed silently to the two trees the students planted last fall. There, another member of the staff sang, in a beautiful voice with rich tones, a song I have never heard before, that was utterly vapid, at least so far as the occasion went. Teachers here are always talking about "teachable moments" but somehow, it seems that we missed a tremendous one today.

This is not a school with a religious affiliation, and we have a substantial number of foreign students. But none of that would seem to prevent "prayer" being mentioned as a possibility for the faithful, or a hymn or tasteful patriotic song such as "America, the Beautiful" being presented, while non-religious and non-American students stand by in respectful silence.

* * *

The Washington Post has a headline: "How Should We Feel Today?" I don't know about you, but the WaPo is not the place from which I take my emotional or spiritual cues.

* * *

Is there a connection between the death of good rhetoric and the emphasizing of emotion in the public sphere? Where is the inspiring oratory? The memorable phrase? "Let's roll" is powerful not for what it says, but the context in which it was spoken. Last night the President's really good line about failed ideologies and lies was replayed, and I thought, "what a good explanation that was," but this morning I still can't recite the line, even approximately.

Perhaps the dearth of Ciceros and Platos, Shuberts and Beethovens is a function of a complacent society, rather than emoting-as-national-pastime, but it is frustrating.

* * *

Please don't wallow today. Go serve meals at a soup kitchen, or make a donation to a charity that provides treatment for the mentally ill. Clean out your closet and give the leftovers to St. Vincent de Paul. Victory over the darkness will not come on the battlefield (however necessary the battle) but in our hearts. "If today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your heart" says the Psalmist. Today, please don't wait to hear the voice of the Lord;go be it.


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