Author Phillip Hallie writes about an art critic who had a sure way of identifying ancient Maltese art objects: "...he found himself crying before them."
Mr. Hallie had a similar experience when he read about goodness he found in a small French village; a village that saved over 5000 Jews during WWII. The purity of their hearts, the work to make this happen, the risk, the work, the courage, the sacrifices, amounted to an excellence that surpassed all the evil, the complicity, the complacency, the ignorance, that existed at the time. He identified his recognition with the same tears as the art critic, the same tears we experience when we become aware of excellence.
I am moved when I find myself in the awareness of excellence. It is a pinnacle of beauty, of truth, of recognition. It connects to my soul and conjures emotions. At my very core, it reminds me of who I am, of who I am capable of becoming.
It is my desire to be aware of excellence more frequently: to recognize it in a smile, in a child's effort, in a student's thoughts and writing.
My husband and I bought tickets to a Vivaldi concert in Saint Chappelle. St. Chapelle is in the heart of Paris, under the shadow of Notre Dame. It is a masterpiece of stained glass, a testament to the biblical stories it retells, to its medieval gothic genius. During the day, it is light and fascination. During the night, it becomes lit and luminous, the perfect acoustics for Vivaldi. The small orchestra of strings began the evening with Pachalbel's canon. Half way through the music Tony turned to me with tears in his eyes. I shared the same tears. We were aware of excellence--a reaction of tears, unsolicited, unsuspected, visceral.
I have seen it before: in a gymnastics meet, in a soloist's pure voice, in the artwork of an amateur. Today my students recognized it in the ability to better one's self, in knowing they wouldn't trade the moment for anything, the silence it evokes, in a Polynesian haka, in the blessing of choice, in music, in a Victor Hugo phrase from Les Miserables, "It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live!"