Secular Glory

I watched a TV program called, “The Queen’s Palaces,” and it reminded me of a trip I took to England. On that trip, I toured Windsor Castle and attended a magnificent worship service in Westminster Cathedral. I found the opulence I experienced to be breathtaking. I write this blog in celebration of magnificence. The kind of magnificence that Windsor Castle, Westminster Cathedral and other human creations exemplify. I think that there is a place for expressions of the very best that humans are capable of.

In thinking about magnificence, I had to temporarily suspend matters political, sociological, moral, and economic. That part of me tends to object to the social conditions that gave rise to monuments of magnificence. That some parts of society should enjoy immense privilege while other parts of society barely eke by is morally wrong. But I suspended these considerations in reflecting on magnificence.

There is something to be said for humanity expressing itself in the superlative. I recall one room in Windsor Castle. It was a chamber in which all the coats-of-arms of the Order of the Garter were displayed. It was an ornate hall, hard-wood ceiling, with gold trim along the ceiling and walls. I asked the guide who stood in the hall about the trim. She explained that the trim was gold leaf, and in a firm, British tone said, “NOT GOLD PAINT.” The Royal Family had the resources to make the best that is possible by human hands. In this blog, I am affirming that. The magnificent Castle itself, with its awe-inspiring architecture and expansive size is a wonder.

Westminster Abbey is a wonder of architecture. An instantiating of the beautiful. I think the columns and walls were marble. Lofty, cavernous, beautiful. I happened to attend a service commemorating the founding of the Cathedral and a magnificent worship service was held. There was a brass ensemble, a boys’ and adult choir, the priests marched in wearing colorful robes, swinging incense censers, carrying flags on staves, and we followed the Anglican order of service, which in itself is a magnificent testament to the human spirit.

Let these two examples suffice to make my point. I could add the pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon, even Stonehenge. Our world and our soul needs expressions of the very best that humans are capable of. And while on one hand, I decry the social injustices that birthed these monuments, on the other hand, a part of me is glad that sufficient wealth and means were extant that allowed the magnificent to manifest.

Analogously, but on a much, much smaller scale, I think about a bridge in the city in which I live. At night, it is illuminated with colored lights. It carries a somber beauty with it’s purple, red, and yellow colors deep in the night. Of course, objections could be raised about the electric power consumed, the cost of illuminating the bridge, ecological considerations about a waste of energy. But in this blog, tonight, I’m putting all that aside and arguing for a small instance of beauty for beauty’s sake in this world. And for the magnificence that show what humanity at its best is capable of. Of the wonder and beauty that can manifest in this world. Of examples like Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, the pyramids, and the High Level Bridge in the city in which I live.


In the chemistry lab
I have observed solids
Precipitate out of solutions
Flaking out of liquid

Watched many different precipitates
Float down, materializing solids
Emerge out of dissolved
State into solidity, precipitate

And snowflakes are precipitates
When supersaturated air chills
Water crystalizes into solid
Flakes lilting in air

Beautiful, floating, dancing swirls
Render in me peace
Watching out my window
The delicate descending snowflakes

Just a chemical precipitate
Like any other solid
Flaking out of solution
In the chem lab

Depending on the eye
What will be seen?
Snowflakes, called a precipitate,
Crystalline flakes dreamily falling

Drifting flakes’ floating beauty
Chemical equations possess beauty
Conceptually considered intellectual beauty
Reflecting the flakes’ beauty

Not that magical spell
Snowflakes cast on me
Watching out my window
Through my peaceful mind


Skin and hair and fingernails and toenails

And eyebrows and eyelashes and eyeshadow

And lips and lipstick and Botox

Lashes and polish and foundation

Makeup and moisturizer and exfoliator

Glamor and allure and sophistication


Good nature and simplicity, even innocence

And sincerity and faithfulness and trust

And honesty and emotional honesty and spontaneity

And genuine and caring and kind

And real and unaffected and straightforward

And loving and spiritual and beautiful

The Measure

Catch anyone of us on a bad day

And you wouldn’t want

To make them your friend

Catch anyone on a good day

And you wouldn’t want

Ever to leave their side

If anyone of us were measured

By how big an ass we could be

We’d be jerks every one of us

If measured by how beautiful

We could ascent and shine

We would inevitably disappoint

Though there are some, very few

Who never seem to have a good day

Being good means more often shining

And less often having a bad day

Overdriven tones distort

And resonance can magnify, distort, even good tones

But silence isn’t the answer

It’s EQ, balance and refine–

It all comes down to the mix

Sonnet: Carol and the Limits of Language

When Shakespeare sought to praise his love

He found that words and language failed

No metaphor or symbol was enough

Every comparison simply paled


If no one used our language better

And the words of our best poet wouldn’t do

How could I arrange line, word, and letter

And begin to rightly praise you?


Only with the language of my heart

And only with the truth that’s in my eyes

Can I begin to hope to try a start

To rightly tell the beauty that in you lies


The limitations of the written word

Will never speak as loving hearts when heard.