This week, I'm privileged to be speaking at Eliot Institute, a week-long family camp for Unitarian Universalists and kindred spirits. Established in 1947, Eliot Seabeck settled in at the Seabeck Conference in Washington's Puget Sound in 1956 and has remained here since then, although there have also been satellite locations over the years. The week is overflowing with activities and, each morning, a guest speaker addresses the campers for an hour or so before they break off into small discussion groups. It's rather like a liberal religious Chautauqua!
I'm addressing the theme, "Your Life Symphony," which I've organized around William Henry Channing's (1810-1884) prose-poem, My Symphony —
To live content with small means.
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion.
To be worthy not respectable,
and wealthy not rich.
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently,
act frankly, to listen to stars, birds, babes,
and sages with open heart, to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.
Each day, I'm framing my presentations with music videos related to the daily theme and accompanying my lectures with passages of pose and poetry that speak to the key points I'm striving to make. Over the next few days, I will share some of the readings and links to the videos, so that this week's campers can return to the videos and readings at their leisure.
Here were the first day's offerings …
Living Content With Small Means
Renowned vocal chamber ensemble Cantus performs the Shaker song "Simple Gifts."
We must not expect too much …
We do not hope too much; we do not believe too much; we do not trust too much; we do not aspire too much; nay, friends, we do not hope, or believe, or trust, or aspire half enough; we expect too much.
Our confidence in ideas and principles is not half what it should be. Our anticipation of results is about double what it should be.
God always means a great deal more than we mean; but we always count on getting a great deal more than he gives … The work of history is never done clear: God leaves always a ragged fringe for us to clear away.
– Octavius Brooks Frothingham (1822-1895)
How much do we need to live a rich, full, free, happy life? Is not just enough sufficient? Pray for just enough health to make work a pleasure; just enough money to supply your simple needs; just enough cheerfulness to make others glad; just enough forgiveness to help you find the good in your neighbor; just enough humility to confess your sins and forsake them; just enough faith to pass through the valley and climb the peak where the eternal things are; just enough courage to drive away every lurking fear; just enough hope to pin a star in the darkest night; just enough love to leave the world a little better than you found it. Therefore, having just enough, you will love the clear-cut pattern of your daily life; you will learn that simplicity is genius; you will discover at last that you have all the wealth that life contains.
– W. Waldemar W. Argow (1891-1961)
Canadian folksinger Valdy performs his classic song, "Simple Life."