Wednesday, August 7, 2019

2019.08.07 For The Beauty Of The Earth

My birthday is today. So is my husband’s We are Leos in love. What I want for my birthday is that we all notice Beauty. It stuns and it saves. We see it in all living things, even when it’s obscured or dimmed by pain. Creative people know this. God is creative and creating all the time—with our help—making and illuminating Beauty. There is nowhere God is not. 

I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,-by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.

    “Long Island Sound” by Emma Lazarus  born in New York City (1849).

I never noticed the beauty of Long Island Sound. It was too familiar a sight to me as I grew up on its banks and splashed in its waters. I think I would die of grief if it were not there to behold—ever again.

Emma Lazarus, a Jewish poet who was concerned for the plight of her people, the plight of the poor, and the plight of refugees and immigrants, knew about the spiritual power of Beauty. She is most remembered for her famous lines published in a poem, commissioned for The Statue of Liberty, gracing New York Harbor since 1886: “The New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

So did English hymnodist and poet Folliot Sandford Pierpont (1835-1917) who wrote the words to this hymn in 1864 when he was only 29.

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. 

Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.


Our current 1982 Hymnal changed the refrain to read: “Christ our God to thee we praise . . .” I guess they wanted to showcase Christ. But the above refrain is the one I grew up singing in the children’s choir at the Presbyterian Church in New York City, and “Lord of all” best expresses God as Creator of all for all. I believe we must seek beyond— way beyond—our religious preferences for the Beauty of the Earth.

When American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts left this Earth and headed for the moon on their spaceships, they looked back. Here is what they saw.

And this is what they all returned to tell us: this Earth is worth saving, and it has no nationality.

Only from a distance—time or space, physical or emotional— can we get perspective enough to realize what is worth expending every ounce of life, individual and collective, to save—with the help of the cosmic Artist who created it and gave it to us.  BEAUTY.