BODY AND SOUL
dangled precariously and somewhat self-consciously, but certainly not
unpleasantly, on the twin horns of a dilemma: one labeled mauvais honte, the
other mauvais gout. Where does false modesty end and bad taste begin,
scene was the elegant dining room of the Commodore. One of my luncheon
companions had a clipping out of Sunday's Times, an Associated Press
dispatch reporting the Freedoms Foundation awards made in Philadelphia the
I try to deny a measure of pleasure at the stir that clipping caused? To do
so would be to insult your intelligence. These were important, learned men,
and they were impressed. It was one of a series of conferences I had in New
York that Tuesday, and in every instance there were present some who had
seen the piece in the metropolitan papers and commented upon it.
made the story newsworthy, I assumed, were such award recipients as Harold
Stassen, Dr. Robert Johnson, national chairman of the Citizens Committee for
the Hoover Report; Dr. Daniel Poling, prospective mayor of Philadelphia;
Robert Nishiyama, the former Kamikaze pilot who is studying at Lafayette on
a scholarship given by the parents of an American who went down in flames to
his death during aerial action against the Japs.
mine was, at best, a role of reflected glory, I was certain. But lo! when I
saw the article it was no such thing; for some inexplicable reason—maybe
because my third-place prize was higher and larger than most of the others,
or perhaps because it was for editorial work— anyway, my name, like Abou
Ben Adham's, led all the rest, to my equal amazement.
as I say, if I tried to deny a feeling of pride at the presentation
ceremonies— a glow of pleasure at my meager mite to a noble cause— you
wouldn't believe me— and you'd be right! I try to appear unaffected
by tribute, and think I do a fairly convincing job of it, but let's face it:
Shakespeare knew what he was about when he had Queen Hermione say in The
Winter's Tale: "Our praises are our wages; you may ride with one
soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere with spur we heat an acre."
I don't go as far as Emerson in disdaining the "foolish face of
praise." But neither do I entertain any self-delusions: I am too
conscious of my own limitations. Epictetus warned 1900 years ago that
"if you try to act a part beyond your powers, you not only disfigure
yourself in it, but you neglect the part which you could have filled with
me, therefore, when I say I have no illusions. Sometimes I take my work
seriously; myself, never. The "unremitting rage of
distinguishing ourselves" is not my motivation in life.
that is not to say that I would rather be a spectator than an actor in the
plays exhibited on the theatre of the world. I think all men in the recesses
and secret thoughts of their hearts like to think they are making a
contribution, however slight. And there is solace for the slightest of us
who are sincere, in the advice of Bacon: "The lame man who keeps the
right road outstrips the runner who takes a wrong one . . . when a man runs
the wrong way, the more active and swift he is the further he will go
is an effectual antidote to egotism in the critically antagonistic, in those
whose "malignity and envy would determine them to endeavor to discover
in our work what partiality conceals from the eyes of friends." It is
wise, I have found, to court hostile comment, thus to temper the blindness
alike of friendly devotion and preconceived opinion.
I convinced you I'm not overly impressed by applause; that I don't esteem
approbation too highly? Well,
then, I can return to what I started out to say: I really got a charge out
of those solemn exercises in the hallowed Chapel of the Four Chaplains,
shrine to the heroic young martyrs of three faiths who stood united in
prayer as they went down with the troopship Dorchester, dedicated to
their exemplary memories only a month or so before by the President of the
in Byzantine ruggedness in the Baptist Temple at Broad and Berks Streets
stands this interfaith memorial, a sanctuary for brotherhood. An illuminated
revolving altar is framed by an ornamental arch at the south end of the
nave. As it turns slowly in response to a push button, it presents symbolic
evidence of the greatness of each of the three faiths whose differences were
transcended by those four who in service and sacrifice found a cause that
surmounts all differences.
was on the night of February 3d, 1943, off the coast of Greenland in
freezing North Atlantic waters, that the Dorchester was torpedoed. The
heroism of the chaplains has become legend: their rescue work that saved
lives as well as souls; their Godlike sacrifice that extended to giving up
their life jackets to others, which meant giving up their lives for others.
Shoulder to shoulder, arms linked in comradeship, each prayed in the
tradition of his own faith but all to Him who first bestowed motion on this
immense machine, as the frigid, smothering waters engulfed them.
now here were men, noble men of faith and feeling, of rational insight, men
who wish to see the hearts of all mankind bathed by an inundation of eternal
love, men who understand how the lesser forces flow everywhere like river
currents while the great forces of Creation go silently and steadily on,
striving to preserve the unity, the brotherhood, the freedom for which those
four died. Men like Dr. John Robbins Hart, the rector of Valley Forge
Memorial Chapel, and Dr. Daniel A. Poling, father of one of the four
martyrs. How earnestly must he wish that this shrine for freedom created by
his son's death could purge humanity of those evils that excite such acute
torments, that produce such malignant humors in the body politic; could
drive out those base thoughts that too often occupy and possess the minds of
men. Who could own a soul so mean that he could remain unmoved in such an
atmosphere? The man who does not rejoice in noble actions is pitiable
was singularly appropriate that Freedoms Foundation should present its
awards in the inspiring presence of these four great spirits. For this is a
worthy work designed to induce all to speak out for preservation of our
American heritage, a cause for which thousands of fine young men have
given their lives.
you wonder, then, why those of us who were being honored in that
limestone-walled chapel, from the biggest of them like Harold Stassen and
Dr. Robert Johnson down to the lowliest— me — must in all humility feel
ourselves a tiny part of an earnest movement to get down to the solid
substance of things? Are we dealing with intangibles, of spirits vexed by
the muddiness and accidentally of the world of sensible things? I think not.
Freedom and faith are the most tangible, the most basic of all properties.
Life would be stunted and narrow if we could feel no significance in the
world around us beyond that which can be weighed and measured.
treasure— and shall to my last day— the beautiful gold medal, engraved
with a replica of Washington at Valley Forge, my name inscribed upon it,
encased in a velvet shield, that symbolizes my award. Of less value to me,
but still welcome, is the two hundred dollars in cash, also given for a
piece that filled one of these columns last year, But most of all, I shall
remember the significance of that occasion, in that setting, with that
background of heroic martyrdom to a great cause hovering over us, its spirit
of sacrifice and brotherhood transcending all. It is a remembrance I shall
cherish always. I'm glad indeed to have been fortunate enough to be a small
part of it..