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FACULTY OPINION: Money toward nature, money well-spent

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Belmont University is expensive, and the expense increases every year. Where does the money go?

Buildings, mostly, and salaries.

But in this, Belmont is no different from most other universities, which are blighted by administrative bloat and compete to attract new students with the lure of shiny objects. Such matters as these merit complaint, to be sure, though nothing will change until society at large comprehends a truth already acknowledged by informed observers, namely that a university education is less and less worth the cost.

As things now stand, however, the outlay of funds for higher education is a necessary evil, for, worth it or not as a matter of substance, the perception is that the job seeker must have a diploma in hand.

And these days, sad to say, we are all job seekers, and perception rules.

So I concur with those few national voices speaking out against ever-increasing tuition rates. Yet occasionally I hear Belmont students, and faculty too, complain of another expense, one that to my mind is absolutely justified, even worthy of universal praise.

I refer to the nurturing and maintenance of Belmont’s grounds. Landscaping. Personally, I believe that however much we spend on the cultivation of our flower gardens, lawns and trees, the resultant beauty is well worth the expenditure.

Learning in the deepest sense does not require grand edifices of marble, crystal and brass. Books, paper, pencils and basic shelter will do. Yet one must also take the time to think about the ideas one encounters in class, to meditate on and contemplate them in the serenity of a spirit at its ease. Natural beauty contributes to this activity.

The paradoxical psychological state of tranquil excitation is encouraged by an environment simultaneously in repose and riotously flourishing, as a plot of roses rocking in the breeze, quiet and calm, yet also overflowing with life and vibrant color.

This environment thrives on Belmont’s grounds. We should all be thankful.

When I graduated from Belmont, the campus was more or less encompassed between the mansion and the bell tower. With the addition of several new buildings and the expansion of our grounds, the hubbub of daily life has migrated to the area around the lawn and 15th Avenue.

The lawn is gorgeous in and of itself, and the plant life encircling it enhances its appeal. But the area I refer to as the “old campus” is more beautiful still, and since there are generally fewer people about there than on the rest of campus, it provides a quiet refuge for thoughtful minds.

Come to campus early one morning and walk straight from the bell-tower to the mansion, around the fountains, beneath the rose-entwined arbors, past the plantings of flowers, in the shade of the towering old trees.

Sit and read for an hour on a bench beside the rose garden in the mild glow of late afternoon. One feels transported into another century, another world. Thoughts flow freely, emotions well. Here is the place for an education, a genuine drawing out and turning of the soul.

Spring may well arrive early this year, but whether soon or late, it will come. Then the trees will sprout their leaves and the flowers bloom. The scent of grass will infuse the air. Belmont’s grounds will burst with life and color.

If I may, I suggest that we take full advantage of this, make a point of thoughtfully experiencing the nature that surrounds us. Let’s take the beauty up into ourselves, absorb it, live with it and live as it.

In short, let’s strive to lead a reflective life, in every sense of this expression.

And when we encounter members of the landscaping crew at work around the grounds, let’s stop and thank them for their efforts. Their activities are every bit as essential to our intellectual and spiritual development as those whose names adorn even our most expensive buildings.

This article was written by Dr. Mark Anderson, chair of the Department of Philosophy.

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