Music and the Spoken Word: What a Nobel Prize winner and Stephen Covey teach us about living a life full of meaning

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given March 17, 2019.

When the 2018 Nobel Prizes were awarded, an international trio of laser scientists shared the award in physics. Among them was 96-year-old Arthur Ashkin, believed to be the oldest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize. One might think that at his age, this achievement would be the ideal conclusion to a long career, a final exclamation point on a life of hard work. Ashkin doesn't seem to think so.

The Wall Street Journal reported that he "told Nobel officials that he might not be available for interviews about the award because he is very busy working on his next scientific paper."

That’s an example of what's been called living "life in crescendo" — a music term that means to grow or increase (see "The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems" by Stephen R. Covey).

It's natural to think, at a certain point in our lives, that we're done learning and contributing. Maybe we've given all that we have to a job, a cause, a responsibility, and we feel that we can now relax and coast to the finish line. While a period of rest may be well deserved, we will always need a sense of purpose and meaning, something to work on, something to look forward to, something to contribute to, something to learn. No matter our age, we all can find meaningful things to do with our lives.

One man volunteers his time conducting a choir at a state prison. A lawyer serves breakfast at a homeless shelter every Saturday morning. A woman found that she has a passion for studying rocks, learning everything she can about them and sharing what she learns with others. A retired couple spend their time researching their family history. And another retiree volunteers each week to help children learn to read. All these have found that wherever we are in life, there are opportunities for improvement and progression.

While we may retire from a career, we need never retire from being kind and gracious, from being a good friend and good neighbor, from reaching out in love and compassion to others. Like a majestic piece of music that swells, not fades, to its conclusion, life can be most rewarding when it is lived in crescendo.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM,, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143) and on the Tabernacle Choir's website and YouTube channel. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at