February 2011 Newsletter

I was quite satisfied to be the youngest person I saw.  It established as fact my mother’s assertion that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (“so you better appreciate it and behave yourself” was her unspoken warning).

I clutched the program Grandma handed me.  Without reading it, I knew that the heading said “Vienna Boys Choir.”  I had long since memorized the name.  “Vienna” – it sounded so far away and exciting. . . Mom said it was in Austria.  I wasn’t sure where Austria was.  On the map at school it looked very close to England, but Mom said it really wasn’t very close at all and that in Austria they didn’t speak English.

Just then, the lights dimmed and a line of young boys began to march solemnly onto the big stage.  Many of them were no older than I – none was very much older.  A moment later they sang.  Leaning forward in my seat, I listened and watched, hardly daring to breathe lest that breath would obscure a note of the music.  It didn’t matter that the lyrics were German or Italian and I understood none of it.

After intermission several of the older boys acted a short musical vignette, and I remember both my amusement at watching a ten year old boy play the tragic heroine, and my fascination with the tale, the brief synopsis of which I read over and over and over in the program as we drove home.  I remember the music which seemed both endless and over all too soon.

Most of all, I remember laying in bed that night playing every moment over in my mind, experiencing for the first time the sorrowful delight of knowing that you have seen something beautiful that you will never see again.  At the time, it made me cry.  It would be years before I read CS Lewis, but I would have recognized his description of longing: “Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us.”[1]

I am a true child of the age of immediate access: access to information, to entertainment, to art and music.  I took for granted the rewind button that let me repeat music and movies, and the photo albums that let me relive experiences. But I am thankful for that winter afternoon.  Glad that I was too young to think to purchase a recording of the choir in the days that followed.  It taught me at a young age to notice moments that can’t be recaptured, to recognize the bond between sorrow and joy.

~ Ashley Trim
[1] CS Lewis. The Weight of Glory. (San Francisco: Harper, 1949) 40.


On the Nightstandbooks

Sigal Ben-Porath has written a wonderful, short work of scholarship which ought to be of interest to Front Porch Republic readers, especially those inclined to philosophically challenge the dominance of the rhetoric of “choice” and “autonomy” in our time. The book is Tough Choices: Structured Paternalism and the Landscape of Choice (Princeton University Press, 2010), and its basic aim is to defend the appropriateness of thinking about how individual choices are, and should be, necessarily limited in some ways when structuring public policies. That brief statement there will be enough, I’m sure, to hearten some FPRers–those of use who are exhausted by the seeming sovereignty which individual expression and diversity seem to have gained over public life, and who long to see a return to a more reasonable acceptance that different forms of limits and authority ought to have over the choices which people make.

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