The American writer Stephen Crane was the ninth surviving child of Methodist parents. In 1891, he left Syracuse University early to work as a reporter and writer. Four years later, he published his best-known work, a Civil War novel titled, The Red Badge of Courage. The book received widespread acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the war, even though Crane had no actual battlefield experience.
In addition to his novels, Crane also wrote poems, which he called “lines,” maybe because he ignored the standards for poetry at the time. He wrote his poems in free verse — they lack rhyme, meter or even proper titles. When someone asked him why he bothered writing poetry, Crane said he wrote poems, “to give my ideas of life as a whole, so far as I know it.” So, it’s not surprising that many of his poems focus on the fundamentals of life — they speak about Crane’s perceptions of God, the universe and humankind.
For today’s inspiration, we’re looking at one of his poems that deals with God and the spiritual question of a life well-lived. It’s a poem titled, “In Heaven.”
By Stephen Crane
Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.
“What did you do?”
Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind
Presently God said:
“And what did you do?”
The little blade answered: “Oh, my lord,
“Memory is bitter to me
“For if I did good deeds
“I know not of them.”
Then God in all His splendor
Arose from His throne.
“Oh, best little blade of grass,” He said.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See The Poetry of Stephen Crane.
More spiritual nuggets for today …
On this day in 1594, the Scottish mathematician, John Napier, dedicated A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John to King James VI, a work that predicted the exact date for the end of the world.
Napier was born into nobility as the eighth laird of Merchiston in Edinburgh. He’s best known for discovering mathematical logarithms and popularizing the use of decimals. But he was also an amateur theologian with strong anti-Catholic leanings and a personal passion for the book of Revelation. In A Plaine Discovery, Napier identified historical events that he believed were paralleled in Revelation, and then applied mathematical analysis to establish the date of the Apocalypse. According to Napier’s calculations, the seventh trumpet described in revelation had sounded a half-century earlier in 1541, indicating the end of the world would happen in either 1688 or 1700. Suffice it to say both dates passed without incident.
On this day in 1929, the Seeing Eye organization was formed in Nashville.
About a year earlier, a 19-year-old blind man named Morris Frank heard about an article in The Saturday Evening Post. The article was written by a woman named Dorothy Eustis who was involved in training dogs to perform specific functions for disabled WWI veterans. Morris wrote her to inquire about the possibility of receiving a dog to help him navigate daily life. And even though Eustis didn’t train dogs for the blind, she asked Frank if he would be willing to travel to her school in Switzerland to be trained and paired with a dog. Frank replied, “Mrs. Eustis, to get my independence back, I’d go to hell.” After six weeks of specialized training, Frank and the dog he named Buddy returned to the U.S., and on January 29, 1929, Frank and Eustis established The Seeing Eye organization in Frank’s hometown of Nashville. Today, The Seeing Eye is the world’s oldest guide dog school and plays an important role in shaping public policy around the use of service animals. In 2011, Dorothy Eustis was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her work with the blind and her passion for helping others.
The world could use more people like her these days. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.