The Gold Standard . . .

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and the search for excellence

This is not about money. The Gold Standard is that ruler of excellence that we find men try to reach to gauge their attainment in a field, genre or in human endeavor.

Mona Lisa

To see the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is to be transfixed. Is this fabric real- we want to touch it, maybe it is real velvet. We half expect the woman’s breast to heave when she breathes. This is the Gold Standard for oil painting. Many will reach this high but never surpass it. It is not the Gold Standard for photography, water color, or pen and ink but surely for oil paint.

Torvill and Dean

Two teenagers in mid 20th century set the Gold Standard for Ice Dancing, a poor cousin to “real” ice skating everyone thought. Their precision and uniformity have never been matched. Skaters night be flashier, more athletic, have better music or costumes but Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill seemed to be moving as an organic unit. They were not married – it was a team they produced. They moved as one. They took a poor sport and turned it into a genre and then an art form. It was a team, not a group of computers, that sent a man to the moon.

Speaking of teams

They still talk about the band of amateur hockey players in the USA who beat the professional Soviets. A picture of why Communism cannot produce inner excellence. Precision maybe, but it lacks that element of the grandeur of the human spirit. Pity.

Why do we watch Casablanca over and over again? Because it is the gold standard for a black and white movie, especially if you consider the genre of European history. Even the title hides some of the intellectual and historical impact- it translates into White House, and it is the drama of the standard of human government based on individual liberty and value from American documents warring against the destruction of the human race by dictatorships generated by hatred of all mankind. That war is still being fought.

Understanding WW 2

I told my students in China, if you want to understand the European War against Hitler, watch this movie. Note the bar scene when the Marseillaise was sung in several different languages all at the same time as an act of defiance against the Nazi brownshirts. The romance carries the story line but it is not the meat of the meaning, which is that men are willing to give their lives for truth and justice. And it is happening again today as that war continues down through modern history.

It’s a Wonderful Life is another movie we’ve seen a dozen times, mostly because we have to every Christmas where it is shown over and over. But there is a reason – it is a profile of the Christian life in America. It’s been translated into many languages and shown across the world. People come to America for a new life because they have seen this movie and believe its premise – that God can take you and your gifts, in spite of your own ambitions and goals, and make you a force for good in your community, and a successful person with a happy family. That was the standard of life back in the 1950s since trashed by self-absorbed tribal interests and political shrapnel.

Back when I was eleven I won a prestigious award for piano. I can close my eyes and remember the shock of the 17 year old boy piano genius who lost. I was nearly as surprised as he. The difference was that although I loved music I had no love of playing the piano. It was an empty award for me but what I learned was that I could produce in my own life a gold standard of excellence for myself. It gave me untold confidence for the future, no matter how badly I might do in coming years, I knew I was capable of the very best and I live in that confidence today.

A job well done

Everyone should have that experience. When I worked in China I bragged to my students about how I had slaved over a holiday weekend on a project and was so self-satisfied with my results. Not one student understood what that meant. Then I realized why – because they live in a society that never recognizes superiority. Communists want everyone equal even if they aren’t – they never know the satisfaction of a job well done. Since the only reward in China was money the only way they could measure their success was by how much money they had.

Money is Transitory

How sad. Money is not permanent. The Gold Standard that you have in your heart is the one you measure yourself by – not an external piece of metal, or today’s fiat paper. The Gold Standard for a Christian is the indwelling Holy Spirit. Many believers do not experience this for one reason or another. But it is the goal of every pastor or teacher to show believers that when they have that confidence in themselves, through either the Word of God or a concrete experience with God Himself, they can judge themselves by what is not in the outside world. I am “accepted in the beloved” the Bible says. If we live our lives seeking only God’s approbation we shake off the onus of human and worldly opinion and live truly free.

If you know you are made in the Image of God you have a standard on which to grow in grace and truth and find where you stand in His Kingdom, how you function and how you can live. I suppose that is a good description of heaven on earth.

Consider what is the Gold Standard you have found in your line of work, community and fellow human beings. You may be surprised.


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The Ministry of the Watchman – An observer on the wall sharing a report of what God is seeing and doing in the world at large and also in the congregations of His people. Cornelia Scott Cree, Watchman, Change Agent, Essayist.

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The Ministry of the Watchman – An observer on the wall sharing a report of what God is seeing and doing in the world at large and also in the congregations of His people. Cornelia Scott Cree, Watchman, Change Agent, Essayist.

One Response

  1. I listened to Barbra Streisand sing Evergreen several times today. It was as close to perfect as one can imagine. I wonder if she was called by God to sing for Him.

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