Mind and soul

A December 2004 photo of Washington National Cathedral, built in knowledge inspired by faith

A December 2004 photo of our National Cathedral, built in knowledge and reverence

“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.” —  Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Several miles from the palaces of knowledge found at the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington National Cathedral stands in a quiet residential area seldom congested with the throngs that crowd the monuments and museums.  Its lovely architecture, stained glass and surrounding gardens offer a setting conducive to quiet contemplation, set apart from the hectic schedules and political battles of our nation’s capital.

Reverence is a quality that often seems in short supply.  In contemporary movies and on television, God’s name is spoken primarily as a conversational byword, an exclamation of surprise or emphasis.  But this disregard of spiritual sanctity does not bode well for our world.  While it’s true that many evils have been perpetrated under the banner of false or misguided religion, human progress throughout history has been inextricably and undeniably bound up with deeds of courage and compassion enacted by people who lived by faith in a God of wisdom, justice and love.

I believe it’s a mistake to see faith and reason as mutually exclusive.  Indeed, many of the greatest minds in history have described how their knowledge served only to deepen their faith.  I am grateful today for the knowledge and reverence of those whose sacrificial devotion has made the world a better place for all of us.  May we have the wisdom to rejoice that truth lives, despite all efforts to silence or destroy it.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. Whatever changes are wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, I pray we all will live more reverently, deliberately and humbly. May we be more aware of our own limitations, and how very much could go wrong all the time, every day, yet does not. 

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Tennyson’s quote is an excellent choice here. I don’t recall having read it before, and as I read it, I experienced a fleeting moment of deeper understanding that I can’t fully describe.
    As we’re fond of saying here at my house, “If it could be said in words, we wouldn’t need to…” (filling in the blank: sing, paint, dance, etc.) Of course that’s a steal from Edward Hopper’s “If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
    I’m just being amazed by the power of poetry, a power that I know you well appreciate!

    • Yes, and few people could wield that power as eloquently as Tennyson. I really haven’t read all that much of him but what I have read amazes me.

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