This morning, at sunrise, I gazed out across the deep, fog shrouded canyon from the brow of the Cumberland Plateau that has become my home. Nature has a way of restoring moments of profound peace and a sense of well-being. My soul is satisfied for the moment, like drinking deeply from a cold mountain spring on a hot, humid afternoon.
But even here, in God’s great playground, my soul hungers for more and I thirst again. I believe He wants more for and from my life. I believe these moments of peaceful solitude have meaning only when embedded in a greater social context where love and service are actively cultivated and expressed. And that is what must set the Village apart from other places of natural beauty and refuge. Prolonged isolation without the association and love of good people, even in a natural paradise is little better than a prison. That is why the first amenity I built here is a natural amphitheater that will draw people together spontaneously, whether to share a movie on the big screen, or a play or concert, where neighbors can be either spectators or players. It is why the covenants require broad, covered porches on every house. It is why I chose to locate within reach of the University of the South, a great institution of higher learning that focuses on the liberal arts and enriches cultural life across this mountain.
This morning, I happened upon an essay by one of my personal heroes, Albert Einstein (part of NPR’s -This I Believe- series). Einstein was not only a great physicist; he was a profound philosopher and, most importantly, a wonderful human being.
I lifted several quotes from this interview.
He said, “Man’s ethical behavior should be effectively grounded on compassion, nurture and social bonds.
The individual feels more than ever dependent on society, but he feels this dependence not in the positive sense, cradled, connected as part of an organic whole. He sees it as a threat to his natural rights and even his economic existence. His position in society, then, is such that that which drives his ego is encouraged and developed, and that which would drive him toward other men (a weak impulse to begin with) is left to atrophy.
. . . the education of the individual aspires to revive an ideal that is geared towards the service of our fellow man, and that needs to take the place of the glorification of power and outer success.”
I couldn’t have said it any better. But I wish to create a place where our connection to society becomes Einstein’s “positive sense, cradled, connected, part of an organic whole”.
Upon enjoying my thousandth sunrise in the village, I believe that the truly renewable source of energy that will keep me alive to the natural beauty that is here will be greater than the view, greater than the majestic ancient hemlock trees that I love, greater than the thundering waterfalls that cascade to Sewanee Creek below. It will be the shared love of good neighbors that will keep me from the dull ennui of spirit that comes of boredom even with nature’s grandeur.
You can enjoy Einstein’s entire essay at: