On the third day of my lecture series at Eliot Institute, "Your Life Symphony," I addressed the theme "Examined and Active Lives: The Disciplines of Living Well." Here were the day's offerings of music and readings …
Examined and Active Lives
"Seasons of Love" — the theme from Rent.
From The Apology of Socrates by Plato
I cannot in a moment refute great slanders; and, as I am convinced that I never wronged another, I will assuredly not wrong myself. I will not say of myself that I deserve any evil, or propose any penalty. Why should I? Because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be an evil? Shall I say imprisonment? And why should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the year — of the Eleven? Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment until the fine is paid? There is the same objection. I should have to lie in prison, for money I have none, and I cannot pay. And if I say exile [and this may possibly be the penalty which you will affix], I must indeed be blinded by the love of life if I were to consider that when you, who are my own citizens, cannot endure my discourses and words, and have found them so grievous and odious that you would fain have done with them, others are likely to endure me. No, indeed, men of Athens, that is not very likely. And what a life should I lead at my age, wandering from city to city, living in ever-changing exile, and always being driven out! For I am quite sure that into whatever place I go, as here so also there, the young men will come to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their desire: and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me out for their sakes. Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that the greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living – that you are still less likely to believe. And yet what I say is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you.
Kathy Mattea and Suzy Bogguss with Crosby, Stills and Nash singing "Teach Your Children" ...
From The Well-Ordered Life
All thinking is dynamic. It gets results for good or bad. Therefore to think of injustice when there is no justice is the first step to create justice. To think on peace when there is no peace is the first step to create peace. To think order in the midst of chaos is the only way to bring about an orderly life.
"Think on these things." That was the advice of a man who lived in a time when it was desperately hard to maintain personal integrity. Militarism and imperialism ruled the world. Victors enslaved the vanquished. Foreign armies were quartered in every part of the civilized globe. Natives had to submit to indignities and were forced to recognize an alien culture.
There was a never-ceasing tension, especially between those who were trying to be loyal to a new way of life and those who would superimpose a rigorous adherence to the old system. Old standards were crumbling. Degeneracy and profligacy were rampant. People were torn by conflicts both within their souls and between hostile elements within the empire. All the early Christians knew strain and stress. Hunted, suspected, imprisoned, beaten and thrown into the arena, their lives were lived under constant terror.
How did they find inward self-mastery and how did they achieve strength to go on bearing these grievous burdens? Paul showed them how.
Think on these things. Keep the mind’s eye forever fastened upon them. Fill your soul with them. Let your inner self be strengthened and sustained by clinging to those things which are true, just, good, and altogether lovely. That was the way they resisted personal disintegration. When life around them "went to pieces," they organized their personalities. They substituted an inner world of order for an outer world of confusion. By daily renewal of the inward spirit they were able to achieve purity of the midst of a sensuous paganism, and to maintain a fresh, creative spirit in an environment of decadence.
"Think on these things." In other words, no matter how desperate outward conditions become, keep the mind focused upon those spiritual realities which have power to transform one’s inner life from turmoil to calm, from fear to faith, from defeat to victory.
— Clarence R. Skinner (1881-1949)
Harry Belafonte sings "Turn the World Around" with the Muppets ...
From the Epistle of James
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ...
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Pete Seeger performs "To My Old Brown Earth" ...