Memories of Awe Episode 14

As Liz looked back over her interviews, she began to think about the human traits that led to the awe memories. So far she had identified such traits as resilience, purpose, and kindness. She decided to ask Professor McKown about these traits and if there were others as well.

LJ: So far your memories of awe have identified a number of traits that are present in the moral beauty of awe. The ones I’ve identified so far are resilience, purpose, and kindness. Are there others?

KMcK:  There are. The one that immediately comes to mind is discipline. I’m not talking about the discipline a tyrant might use to control people, but the internal discipline needed to achieve the extraordinary.

LJ: I hope you have a story for me that demonstrates the moral beauty of discipline.

KMcK: I do. I first met Nico in my sophomore class. He had recently arrived in America from Italy. He had come to the university on a rifle scholarship. As you know, our rifle team is generally one of the best teams in America. Nico was barely able to speak and understand English when he first arrived.

On the first test in my class, he asked if he could us an Italian-English dictionary. I agreed because the nature of my tests makes cheating virtually impossible. Because of Nico’s language barrier, I was surprised when he ended up getting the highest grade.

On my second test, Nico asked if he could take it early. He had a flight to catch to compete in the European rifle championship. When Nico returned from Europe, he came to my office to get his test results. Again, he had the highest grade. When I asked Nico about the rifle championship, he responded in a very matter-of-fact way: “I won”.

LJWow!! That really adds meaning to the phrase: student athlete. He must have been very disciplined to excel at both rifle shooting and academics.

KMcK: That’s true. Our rifle coach told me that he won’t recruit a shooter who isn’t an outstanding student. He wants disciplined shooters because that’s what it takes to be a champion.

LJCan you tell me more about Nico?

KMcK:  Our rifle team won three national championships when he was here. He represented Italy in the London Olympics. I don’t think I’ve ever been more emotional than when I saw Nico on the medal stand when they put the gold medal around his neck.

Then four years later, he won two more gold medals at the Brazil Olympics.

LJIt’s hard for me to even imagine the awe you must have felt seeing a former student excel at such a high level.

KMcK:  I’ve been blessed by being in the company of such extraordinary students.

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“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude” – Colin Powell

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