Sunday, June 14, 2015

Something Like Moses Here

We were now deep into our trip to Australia with the Choir – Melbourne, Ballarat, and Canberra were behind us, the first one-third of our trip now in a place called "memories."  And as we had anticipated, our bus drove further and further north.  After many hours, the lush farmlands began to yield to urban development, and we knew we were fast approaching our next great city on the eastern coast of Australia: Sydney.

I usually sit in the front of the bus (don't ask, it's just better for me).  So I posed a question to our bus driver, as to whether we'd be heading in via the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  He just smiled a bit and said it would depend on the traffic.  I wondered where the smile came from.

Then, as we closer and closer, it became evident that we WERE going to take the bridge; now it was also my turn to keep my lips sealed.  We rounded a corner, and there it was, perched on Bennelong Point:  the Opera House!

The entire Choir spotted it at the same time, and an electrifying shout and cheer went up through the entire bus.  Now I understood the driver's smile – and I can't blame him for wanting to keep it a bit of a secret and savor the excitement of a group of Americans seeing this iconic building for the first time.

I took some time to prepare for the next day's tour of the Opera House, which had so generously been arranged by our ACU hosts.  I read up on the master architect for the Opera House, Jørn Utzon.  I pondered over the tragedy of his project getting caught up in the politics of a changing government in 1965 – which eventually led to Utzon's resignation from the project.

The sad truth:  he never got to see his work completed.  Even at the beginning of the 21st century, when he was awarded one of the highest architectural prizes in the field, he did not return to Sydney.  Like Moses, he went to the grave not tasting or seeing with his own eyes the very thing his life had led him to do.

I am drawn, now and again, back to the words of a guitarist from the 70's (what else?) Don McLean:
But I could've told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

It is always a sad commentary when we see the great personal sacrifice made by those who are the artists around us. Whether their medium is visual, musical, or even oratorial, philosophical, or architectural – even political.  If their vision is too beautiful for us ... we end up rejecting them.

The result, at least for Sydney Harbor (and all Australia, really), is that one man came up with an idea that created, instead of just a building, a veritable icon for their country.  Sure, the thing took years longer to build.  Yes, it was slated for $7 million and ended up costing $102 (but the Aussie lottery took care of that).  In the end, an architect from Denmark, an artist and a visionary, was the one to give the Land Down Under its signature building.

So here's to the visionaries among us!  For the fifty members of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, casting eyes on Sydney's Opera House for the first time became a "bucket list" moment.  But these kind of moments, more often than not – whether they be Lincoln Memorials or Starry Nights or Opera Houses – are created by those who are Moses, in our midst.

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