Peggy Noonan wrote a stunning op-ed in the WSJ yesterday (An Ode to Ceremony), and I’ll quote extensively (emphasis mine):
A few days later, the great state funeral of Gerald Ford. I didn't plan to watch it, but every time I saw it I couldn't stop. Why do we do this, dust off the pomp and circumstance and haul out the ruffles and flourishes? It's not only to mark a death, even of so respected and highly charged a figure as a former president. Why do network television chiefs and newspaper editors decide not to leave the story until it's over, even when from day one it seems stale?
Because it's not stale. We're renewing.
The Marines snap their salutes and bear the flag-draped coffin up the marble steps and we hear the old hymns--"Going Home," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," "The Navy Hymn": "Oh hear us when we cry to thee / For those in peril on the sea." We don't hear these songs much in modern life, only at formal occasions like this. We lock them in a closet until a state funeral, and then they come out and we realize how much they meant, and how much we miss them.
The ministers speak of God's grace and ask him to welcome his humble servant home. Which suggests, and in a formal state occasion, that there is a God, a home, a soul. The eulogists speak of the wonders of the human personality, and of a specific and particular life in the long continuum. They praised Ford's honesty, his modesty, his patience. They said he always put himself second. They said he loved his country. In doing so they reminded us that effort is rewarded, patriotism is praised.
We do all this to remind ourselves who we are. We do it to remind ourselves what we honor, and what we believe, as a nation and a people. We do it to remind ourselves that America yields greatness, that here a seemingly average man raised in decidedly average circumstances can become someone whose passing deserves four days of a great nation's praise.
Praising these things reminds the old of what it is we should be aiming for each day, and instructs the young on the elements of a life well lived.
We do it to make the picture broader for a moment, and free ourselves of our cynicism. And we do it finally to enact what so many feel and rarely say, not only because it's corny but because if you mean it, it's beyond words.
Ms. Noonan’s thoughts are spot-on, particularly about the significance of ritual in instructing the young about who we are and what we stand for.
I put up a couple of posts about President Ford’s funeral and I watched most, but not all, of it. I also remarked about how impressive the ceremonies were. I neglected to address exactly why I found the rituals so impressive and, truth be told, I suppose I wasn’t completely in touch with my feelings. Or, much more likely, I was unable to articulate my feelings. As Ms. Noonan so correctly observes: “And we do it finally to enact what so many feel and rarely say, not only because it's corny but because if you mean it, it's beyond words.” The meaning of the occasion was most certainly beyond my words.
And while we’re on about “values,” here’s a follow-up to my recent post about the retirement of Steve Yzerman’s number. From an editorial by Lynne Meredith Schreiber in the Detroit News:
They lauded Yzerman for his integrity, his sportsmanship, his teamwork -- all the things I always loved about him. The way he married his high school love and stayed married. His humility. The way he took little, if any, credit for his great, great talent on the ice, instead sharing his night of honor, his career highlights and his Stanley Cup wins with all those around him, from the front office and locker room alike.
These used to be standard American characteristics quality, integrity, character. That's changed, big-time. Now, the words most often used to describe our nation are divorced, obese and lawsuit-happy.
As Americans have devolved as a people, individuals like Stevie Yzerman have soared to stardom not for his winning, his 692 career goals or the way he came to work even when he was injured, all admittedly fantastic. He is a star because he does not tell everyone he's a star. He is a star because he is, at heart, an average family guy who plays well with others.
I mentioned in passing that Stevie Y is in the “A” rank of my personal heroes, and Ms. Schreiber captures— perfectly —the main reason I hold The Captain in such esteem. And, to a lesser extent, my love for the sport of hockey. Anyone who has watched hockey for more than a season or two recognizes there’s a certain gestalt that runs through interviews with hockey players: they tend to be personally modest and attribute their successes to “the team.” In other words, they play well with others. There are lessons to be learned here.
I’ll offer up just one comparison: Terrell Owens. Stevie and TO come from entirely different planets, and the NHL and the NFL are two completely different universes. I know which universe I want MY kids (and grandkids) to live in. Just sayin’.
Today’s Pic: Photographic evidence that
is indeed San Francisco ’s most beautiful city. Taken from the summit of Mt. Tamalpais, October of 2000. That’s my buddy John silhouetted against the view. America
Just as an aside,
used to be the home of the 666th Radar Squadron (Mill Valley Air Force Station), and as such was one of the best kept secrets in the entire United States Air Force. The Officers/NCO Club had a million-dollar view of the Bay Area through huge plate-glass windows and folks in the know could get a room in the BOQ for about ten bucks a night, back in the day. Although I was never stationed at Mt. Tam , I did take advantage of those “low rates” at the BOQ once or twice… Mill Valley