Saturday, September 23, 2006

Great winds from the sky

I've been cranking out songs all day. My cranker is sore.

Now my homework is finally assembling the content for the website for one of my shows -- it has been hovering empty, merely a lonely buoy, a placeholder in the teeming vastness of that series of tubes known as The Internets.

Of course, one would expect a synopsis. I do have a snappy 100-word summary that we've used for various festivals and things, but I thought I'd write a better synopsis for the site. A mere 2,300 words later, voila!

So perhaps it needs to be edited. But a lot happens!

Now I'm writing the pages about the characters -- Amelia Earhart, Agatha Christie, and Aimee Semple McPherson. I'm trying not to go on and on, but there's a reason that each of these women has numerous books written about them -- their stories are fascinating.

And if you come over, just pop down to the bookshelf downstairs. That's where my ever-growing collection of books about these three is currently ensconced.

One thing I'm always moved by, when I go over my notes for the show, was a eulogy for Amelia Earhart written by Walter Lippmann, published July 8, 1937, just six days after she disappeared over the Pacific. She was just three weeks away from turning 40.

He wrote:

I cannot quite remember whether Miss Earhart undertook her flight with some practical purpose in mind, say, to demonstrate something or other about aviation which will make it a little easier for commercial passengers to move more quickly around the world. There are those who seem to think that an enterprise like hers must have some such justification, that without it there was no good reason for taking such grave risks.

But in truth Miss Earhart needs no such justification. The world is a better place to live in because it contains human beings who will give up ease and security and stake their own lives in order to do what they themselves think worth doing. They help to offset the much larger number who are ready to sacrifice the ease and the security and the very lives of others in order to do what they want done. No end of synthetic heroes strut the stage, great bold men in bulletproof vests surrounded by squads of armed guards, demonstrating their courage by terrorizing the weak and the defenseless. It is somehow reassuring to think that there are also men and women who take the risks themselves, who pit themselves not against their fellow beings but against the immensity and the violence of the natural world, who are brave without cruelty to others and impassioned with an idea that dignifies all who contemplate it.

The best things of mankind are as useless as Amelia Earhart's adventure. They are the things that are undertaken not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone, not counting the costs or calculating the consequences, is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor, the compulsion to invent or to make or to understand. In such persons mankind overcomes the inertia which would keep it earthbound forever in its habitual ways. They have in them the free and useless energy with which alone men surpass themselves.

Such energy cannot be planned and managed and made purposeful, or weighed by the standards of utility or judged by its social consequences. It is wild and it is free. But all the heroes, the saints and the seers, the explorers and the creators partake of it. They do not know what they discover. They do not know where their impulse is taking them. They can give no account in advance of where they are going or explain completely where they have been. They have been possessed for a time with an extraordinary passion which is unintelligible in ordinary terms.

No preconceived theory fits them. No material purpose actuates them. They do the useless, brave, noble, the divinely foolish and the very wisest things that are done by man. And what they prove to themselves and to others is that man is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton in his routine, no mere cog in the collective machine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky.


Blogger Rindy said...

That obituary is really beautiful. The second paragraph in particular I find comforting, given how things are these days.

6:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home