More Merton

From Merton I learned the word aseity, which he defines as “the power of a being to exist absolutely in virtue of itself, not as caused by itself, but as requiring no cause, no other justification for its existence that its very nature is to exist. There can be only one such Being: that is God.” It’s pronounced uh-SEA-uh-tee. I asked my MDiv and doctoral candidate daughter if she knew the word. She was on the verge of driving home from Atlanta to spend Yom Kippur with her mother and the rest of the weekend with us. She asked if it meant “a 31-year old who still brings her laundry home to do at her parents.'”

Describing the “real part” Columbia played in his life, Merton notes that Columbia “was founded [in 1754, the last four digits of the university phone number: JO] by sincere Protestants as a college predominantly religious. The only thing that remains of that is the university motto: In lumina tuo videbimus lumen–one of the deepest and most beautiful lines of the psalms: ‘In Thy light, we shall see light. It is, precisely, about grace. It is a line that might serve as the foundation stone of all Christian and Scholastic learning, and which simply has nothing whatever to do with the standards of education at modern Columbia.”

The motto is paraphrased in the university alma mater, “Stand Columbia.” I knew, and still know, those words:

Mother stayed on rock eternal, crowned and set upon a height,
Glorified by light supernal, in thy radiance we see light.
Torch thy children’s lamps to kindle,
Beacon star to cheer and guide,
Stand, Columbia, Alma Mater, through the storms of time abide.

What corn, and what’s worse is that the melody is that of Hayden’s Emperor Quartet and therefore of the German national anthems, pre- and post-World War II. Here’s a recent iteration of the Glee Club having at it.

Much more tear-jerking is the Columbia College (the undergraduate college) alma mater, “Sans Souci,” which I also knew and know all the words to. Here’s the Glee Club hitting the high notes, which I never could, having almost always started too high to begin with.

Just to round things out, the college fight song is “Roar, Lion, Roar,” sung here by the Kingsmen, one of whom when I was a freshman was Art Garfunkel, who, with Paul Simon, went to Forest Hills High School just before I got there in 1960.

I hate to say it, but all of these songs, especially “Sans Souci,” make me teary. Next year is the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Columbia.

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