“Be what you are, give what you can and the rest of the time mind your own business”
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star. Had elsewhere its setting. And cometh afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home.”–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, 1807.
“Surely God would not have created such a being as man with an ability to grasp the infinite to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality”–Abraham Lincoln, Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838).
This quote came to me from an email sent to me from my brother. The timing of it coming on the heels of the recent election cycle and the coming holiday season motivated me to include it here. This is from Marvin J. Ashton, given in a 1992 LDS Conference speech.
“Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.
Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of being a basher repulsive.
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. What ever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? What ever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? What ever happened to rooting for each other?”
…These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence…
In lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
of cities and towns, I have owed to them
in hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along in the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration: –feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:–that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,–
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspend, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things…
…For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth: but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply infused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of thought,
And rolls through all things…
…Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies…
William Wordsworth, 1888
As I look back on the dietary habits of my family growing up I realize my parents went out of their way to make sure we were fed healthy food. I personally witnessed my parents’ dedication to healthy eating as I watched them religiously ingest mountains of brewer’s yeast every morning. My parents never kept sugared cereals like Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, or Captain Crunch in our house and my mother, God bless her; never put a Hostess product or an Oreo cookie in our lunches.
For lunch, I ate a lot of whole wheat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mixed up sometimes with a not so subtle smelling tuna fish sandwich, and when our family was going through financial rough patches I occassionally got a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich that inevitably would leave a large grease spot on the brown paper bag housing the sandwich and sometimes would stain my backpack. I would have gladly given anything for some American cheese instead of the two thick slabs of sharp cheddar that lay lukewarm on my whole wheat bread.
Our other meals growing up included dishes like cottage cheese pancakes, real oatmeal with real raisins, peanut butter soup, spinach balls, carrot salad with raisins and pineapple, some spaghetti squash, an occasional liver with onions, and a lot of Swiss chard and spinach. Apart from an overabundance of zucchini, it seems like Swiss chard was the only plant my parents successfully grew year after year in their garden. My Mom was a little more generous when it came to desserts and we did eat a lot of homemade chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, but there was one cookie that seemed to be a peculiar favorite of my mom’s: the infamous Applesauce cookie.
First of all, there is a lot of disagreement in my family whether or not the Applesauce cookie was an actual cookie. For the most part it did not look like your average cookie, it was never round or even remotely circular in shape and when you went to grab one from the cookie jar more often than not you would come out with a glob of what possibly looked like 3 or 4 cookies stuck together. Plus unlike other cookies which are inviting, the Applesauce cookie was menacing and intimidating. Day after day, week after week, this brownish gray mass of mystery ingredients that refused to get moldy would stare out daring us to try a glob.
Not only did their shape and look put the label “cookie” in doubt, but it was the sheer density of the Applesauce cookie that casts doubt as well. Legend has it that my older brother successfully lifted one out unassisted when he was 10 year old, but no one else has been able to confirm that. I was 12 years old before I could lift the cookies out of cookie jar without help from other family members or good-hearted neighbors. Because of their density our parents would often warn us in a special sit down talk with worn out graphic posters to not throw Applesauce cookies at each other, especially to not throw them at each other’s head, and to never ever throw a cookie in anger. But that wasn’t the worst part about the cookie’s density; the worst part was after you ate the cookie. Our parents often would tell us that the heavy, “cement-like” feeling in our stomachs would go away after 36 hours, but it often felt like two or three weeks before it passed.
There are many things I owe a lot of thanks to my parents for and in hindsight I do appreciate their efforts to have us eat healthy and many of those habits did carry over (okay, maybe just some of them carried over, many is a bit of an exaggeration). But, it has been years now since I have had an Applesauce cookie nor I have ever asked for the recipe or ever wanted to know what went into those cookies. And I find it no accident, as an adult, that I have never seen an Applesauce cookie mass marketed in any local bakery or grocery chain.
Large government programs, huge amounts of wealth, or even being a superpower are not what make America great. America was great before it ever was wealthy, powerful, or had instituted large social welfare programs. America does not rise above other nations because of what she accomplishes collectively.
America distinguishes itself because it is the only nation to believe, and to still believe just barely, that the individual is more important than society or the government that rules over a society. The Founding Fathers saw that the best government was one that served the individual and not the other way around where the individual exist for the benefit of the government. The United States is based on faith and hope in the transcendent ideas of individual freedom, individual compassion and virtue, and the right of each person to pursue happiness, compassion, mercy and truth through belief and action. From these ideas come the two most important individual rights: the freedom of religion (thought or conscience) and the freedom of speech. These two rights put the “human” into humanity and fuel the torchlight of what America symbolizes to the rest of the world craving the light of individual freedom.
America’s greatness and compassion cannot be measured by making comparisons to other nations because it comes about by providing hope to individuals and by providing opportunity for individuals to maximize their potential. That is the genius of the American experiment. Greatness and genius, however, do not equate to perfection. Much like the myriad ways that individuals can be imperfect, the nation as whole does reflect that and as its many angry critics point out does fall short. However, it must be said an imperfect America striving to fulfill lofty and transcendent ideas is head and shoulders preferable to all other flawed and fallible nations ruled by more conventional and human ideas of governing and power.