More than two centuries ago, the great poet William Blake offered the world a worthy challenge:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.

In mid-sixteenth century Belgium Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted the fascinating village scene
depicted above. At Duquesne University, I teach a liberal arts music course that explores a wide
variety of music spanning from Middle Ages through the present. During our Renaissance
exploration we enjoy a delightful performance of dance music by Flemish composer Tielman

While viewing the performance, the village scene appears. After the performance ends, we
reflect on the scene considering the vast difference of what village life was like during the 16th
century compared to our contemporary life. Among other topics, we feel and express gratitude
for our freedom of religion, the right to vote, and our vast natural boundaries on the east and west
with friendly neighbors to the north and south. We acknowledge that so many famous people of
earlier times died at young age of diseases like typhus, pneumonia, tuberculosis, infection, and
other causes that are easily treated today. Our reflection inspires appreciation for how fortunate
we are to have reliable drinking water, electricity, and sophisticated medical treatments. To
acknowledge and express gratitude for the wonderful life improvements that have occurred over
the centuries provides us a humbling reminder of our Creator’s call for us to “learn to
live graciously together on this unique, beautiful, blue planet.” To that end, I suggest that we take
one more look at the village scene at the top of the page, take a deep breath, and feel deep
gratitude for our everyday blessings.

Edward Kocher, Ph.D.
Duquesne Professor of Music
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit
Pittsburgh, PA