True Strength

St. Francis de Sales said, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” I have had the honor to work with and know some true men in the Army and FBI. Those quiet professionals and tender warriors embody St. Francis’ words. They live them each day. They stand in stark contrast to what many in the world define as “manliness.”

As we are constantly bombarded with news, tweets, and social media stories about the events in the world, I find it necessary to reflect on the “real” men I’ve had the privilege to know. One of those men, my art history professor at West Point, spoke five languages, served multiple tours in Vietnam, and had a PhD in literature. He pointed out that many of the paintings and sculptures of great warriors show them reading while their weapons are slung across their backs. They did not find joy in fighting, but did so when called upon. When given the chance, they chose art, family, music and literature over war. The warriors I know are the toughest of men by the world’s standards, but are also the most tender.

I am saddened to watch those who our media often presents as men. Too often they are the antithesis of the real men I’ve known. The warriors I know do not bully, they cherish. They are not cruel, but caring. These men inspire instead of insult. They mentor where others intimidate. They do not need to explain they are strong. They simply are. As we seek role models and leaders, we need to start looking for those who are gentle. For in them, we will undoubtedly find real strength.

Selective Hearing

I’ve spent much time recently reflecting on my last post, “Brief Rebirth,” and our collective need for more frequent spiritual renewal and emotional rebirth. In a society filled with non-stop news, tweets, and an endless supply of divisiveness, our choice of “input” matters. Thanks to technology that brought many improvements, we can also click one button and be directed to bad news, hateful speech, and a variety of information that drains our souls and inevitably turns us against one another. The bad will remain available to us, but so will art.

Several days ago I heard Mozart’s Requiem Mass in the Basilica of Saint James in Old Town Prague. Afterword, I compared what I thought of mankind and others around me with my feelings after reading the day’s news. As Mozart washed over my soul, I felt the beauty of mankind, the goodness of others, and sat in awe as a young woman in front of me signed the Requiem to the deaf girl next to her. At that moment I was incapable of feeling divisiveness, anger, or fear. The music and the art around me had overpowered those emotions and replaced them with those I aspire to experience constantly. Don’t we all long to feel that way more often?

While searching for quotes that might express my feelings more eloquently, I read inspiring words by Beethoven, Plato, Shakespeare, and many others. I settled on Bono who said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” I believe it and all art can, even if for just a moment. When we choose music and art over tweets and bad news, we fill ourselves with fuel that empowers and inspires us to make the world better. Spend a day or a week choosing art and music over tweets and links, and I assure you, the world will suddenly appear infinitely more wonderful.

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