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7: Full Circle

Like all great stories, I decided to come full circle and conclude this 7-post adventure with another Shakespearean sonnet:

Sonnet LV
By: William Shakespeare
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Ode to the Summer Camp

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how downright magical summer camps are? There is nothing quite like the thrill of new pals exploring the grooves of Mother Nature together, the immeasurable warmth and sweetness of everything that surrounds (or roasts in) the hallowed campfire, or the treasure chest of memories we get to carry away with our refreshed minds and bodies. As my boy Hemingway once said (probably):

“When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead”

Those words were the guiding star for our dirty, unshod feet and glittering eyes. It is those precious weeks, indeed, that will keep us young for many years after.

At the start of this school year, I had the distinct pleasure of being a Welcome Week Guide. Now mark my words, Welcome Week for the freshman at Creighton is no small affair – neither is it merely one week long! In fact, although I am jokingly fond of likening the grueling training, endless chanting, hectic planning, exhausting moving-in, attendance-demanding components of Welcome Week to hazing, it did successfully pull us all together as a tough-as-nails team. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Our glorious Creighton fight song still haunts my post-Wecome Week dreams, which may or may not be a very good thing. Courtesy of hindsight, the whole ordeal has the same nostalgic, endearing aura as the ghosts of summer camps past, which is definitely a superb thing – the kind of memories that you lock away for a rainy day. Those days mark my first encounters with the raw beauty of the human spirit. I perpetually wish I could forget how exciting that first, lucky, and instant camaraderie is, so I could rediscover and relive it once again. Though the virtues of independence, cooperation, and simple living were irritatingly uncomfortable at points, they were much like the annoying mosquito bites that speckled our suntanned skin – inconsequential.

Again I come to the realization, discipline is the sandpaper which smooths out our rough edges and shapes us into more elegant beings. Even through the tears of jealousy, frustration, and loneliness, growing up turned out to be a hell of a fun ride! And here’s to the happy knowledge that the process is not nearly finished…

happiness doubled by wonder

Mount Tabor, Israel

As I demurely sat in this delightful cafe, musing over what I want my first actual post to be about, I credit these wise words from my pal, G.K. Chesterton, for the proper inspiration:

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

This first essay of mine is a tribute to thankfulness: the serene knowledge that I have been blessed and highly favored.

On this invigorating fall day, I am reminded of how easy it is to be appreciative of the primary blessings in life: family, friends, sound health, the beauty of nature, exciting future plans, etc. But being no fool, I am also all too aware, as you are too, of the grotesque stuff in life: jealousy, despair, suffering, torture, pain, etc. What to make of the ugly parts? I maintain that the struggle to be grateful and find meaning in the dreadful, gross faces of life is the noblest battle indeed. I will never cease to extol Viktor Frankl’s brilliantly hopeful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, for granting me the powerful insight into reality that guides me even today,

“We who lived in concentrate camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Consume these words. Let them nourish your soul with hope, as they did mine. These days while we take care what our mouths chew, we must also be cognizant of the sustenance we allow our brains to gnaw upon. I firmly believe that it is our job to manifold the blessings with which we have been blest, to multiply the gems of our talents and gifts.  The question is loudly put to us when we discern our life’s work, but it is also whispered in our hearts each occasion we touch the life of another – even think of the awkward minutes we pass in the elevator each morning with a random companion. To paraphrase the great Mother Teresa, we have the great capability to leave each person better and happier than when we found them.  How are we using that power?

To conclude this lovely jumble of attempted acumen, I want to leave you with this beautiful poem that I first unwillingly memorized in the fifth grade. It still plays through my mind (and with ah! bright wings…read it out loud and you will know exactly what I mean) every time I am witness to such natural beauty, as in the picture above from atop Mount Tabor, that I captured when I traveled through the land of Israel two Christmases ago.

God’s Grandeur

By: Gerard Manley Hopkins

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

A Long Time Coming

This blog, let me tell you, has been a long time coming.

I had always imagined that I would launch it in some glorious manner – perhaps during a long, stormy night or in the heat of a summer afternoon beside a sparkling creek – but here I am, on a spontaneous Thursday evening, furiously typing at my desk. It was simply the right time; you know the feeling? Luckily, time has taught me to find the right time, since it won’t find me on its own. It’s not so much about the space that we exist in, but rather how we choose to exist, or expand if you will, in that space.  While my surroundings might not be ripe for the poetic spirit, I will search for the poetry in these streets. While the chaos of my life may not yet be art, I will find clarity, and through that clarity: truth, beauty, wonder, and art.

I will try to do that with this blog- while this bud of a blog blossoms, I challenge you to do the same. Expand your horizons and forget your comfort zone. Home is all around you.

Audaces fortuna iuvat