The United States of America is 242 years old today. It seems to be in a bit of a cranky stage but those of us who love her hope she will grow out of it someday (soon). It is a spectacular country in about every way you define spectacular. I have now traveled to five continents and have a better frame of reference—enough to recognize that the land of my birth is unique in its global influence.
And I have now spent time in thirty-six of these United States and hope to complete the set someday. I already have remarkable memories.
I stood outside the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama and threw snowballs on the Fourth of July in Alaska. I stood at the Grand Canyon in Arizona and called the Hogs in Arkansas. I watched the sunset in California and ran in the snow in Colorado. I saw a rocket launch in Florida and ate peach cobbler in Georgia. I ran along the Snake River in Idaho and sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame at Wrigley Field in Illinois. I shot hoops at Larry Bird’s restaurant in Indiana and drove by corn fields in Iowa.
I saw the wide open horizon in Kansas and watched horses run behind white fences in Kentucky. I ate beignets in Louisiana and crab cakes in Maryland. I toured the Ford Museum in Michigan and the Mall of America in Minnesota. I saw a hurricane in Mississippi and the Gateway Arch in Missouri. I sang in the capitol rotunda in Nebraska and walked the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. I drove Route 66 across New Mexico and ran Central Park in New York.
I ate banana pudding in North Carolina and had a VIP tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. I dodged tornadoes in Oklahoma and crossed breathtaking rivers in Pennsylvania. I saw Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the Lorraine Motel in Tennessee. I witnessed Monday Night Football in Texas and the Golden Spike National Monument in Utah. I crossed the Potomac in Virginia and ascended the Space Needle in Washington. I drove up a winding mountain in West Virginia and ate cheese curds in a bar in Wisconsin.
I am ready for more.
This is an incredible country, and I choose to celebrate these United States today. And I choose to do my part in making it better tomorrow.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged alabama, alaska, arizona, arkansas, california, colorado, florida, georgia, idaho, illinois, indiana, iowa, july 4, kansas, kentucky, louisiana, maryland, michigan, minnesota, mississippi, missouri, nebraska, nevada, new mexico, new york, north carolina, ohio, oklahoma, pennsylvania, south carolina, tennessee, texas, united states, usa, utah, virginia, washington, west virginia, wisconsin
Famed journalist, David Brooks, was the featured speaker at a recent conference at Pepperdine, and much of the conversation focused on an op-ed he wrote a year ago in The New York Times titled, “The Big University.” The thought behind the article is summed up in a single sentence/paragraph:
In short, for the past many decades colleges narrowed down to focus on professional academic disciplines, but now there are a series of forces leading them to widen out so that they leave a mark on the full human being.
Brooks applauded this development and prescribed four tasks for colleges and universities:
- Reveal moral options.
- Foster transcendent experiences.
- Investigate current loves and teach new things to love.
- Apply the humanities.
While all four are worthy of reflective conversation, I am particularly drawn to the call to foster transcendent experiences. Brooks wrote:
If a student spends four years in regular and concentrated contact with beauty—with poetry or music, extended time in a cathedral, serving a child with Down syndrome, waking up with loving friends on a mountain—there’s a good chance something transcendent and imagination-altering will happen.
Yeah, I dig it.
Last week, I was thousands of miles from home in Akron, Ohio, with a couple of unexpected hours and zero plans and somehow ended up hiking through a beautiful park amid the blazing colors of autumn. The very next day, even farther from home in the heart of Manhattan in New York City, I had more unexpected time to spend while awaiting a meeting in a Fifth Avenue skyscraper and wandered into iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral to experience an early afternoon Mass in that stunning venue.
A peaceful forest. A majestic cathedral. Two good choices. And why did I have to travel so far to make such choices?
Brooks’s encouragement may have simply been intended for college students, but seeing that I feel a little thirsty for transcendence myself, my choices in those two moments make me wonder what might happen if I altered my routines to create “regular and concentrated contact with beauty.”
I just might do it. And if nothing else, fostering transcendent experiences in my own life might make me more effective in fostering such moments for others.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged akron, beauty, college, david brooks, experiences, hiking, manhattan, nature, new york city, new york times, ohio, pepperdine, st. patrick's cathedral, transcendence, university