Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Not Left Comfortless

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

Jane Kenyon’s luminous poem, “Let Evening Come,” isn’t a winter poem, nor is it – as it as is often used – a funeral poem. I read it as a standing invitation back to the beauty of the real, a call as welcome at year’s end as at close of day. The dark settles as it will, but we aren’t left comfortless. There’s no reason to fear. What we call “nature” or “the environment” – as if these words name something that doesn’t include us – teems with creatures that need no such reminder. Humans apparently do.

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Broken and Beautiful

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

December 29 commemorates the assassination of Saint Thomas à Becket at Canterbury cathedral in 1170. Thomas was a political insider (and allegedly something of a scoundrel in his personal life) whom King Henry II named Archbishop to serve as the crown’s reliable yes-man. To Henry’s dismay, Thomas took the new role seriously, a personal and public transformation that ultimately resulted in his politically motivated murder. Whatever else one may take from his biography, Thomas reminds us not only that deeply flawed humans can become saints, but they are the only ones who ever do.

In the northern hemisphere, with winter just getting started and memories of a dark and troubling year weigh heavy, it’s a balm to remember that each successive day from now until June grows imperceptibly longer. The worst of the weather and the pandemic may yet be ahead, but that’s never the whole story. For all that humanity does to mangle our one and only planet, we remain broken and beautiful people in a broken and beautiful world. Focusing too often and too long on the brokenness blinds us to that beauty. Eyes open to beauty are vaccines against apathy and despair.

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Beauty and Suffering

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

I learned today, via the UK’s Telegraph, that I share with newly-elected Pope Francis a favorite painting: Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion. We also share an appreciation for the film, Babette’s Feast, his favorite, though I’d place Gabriel Axel’s masterpiece just behind Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Roland Joffe’s The Mission in my personal cinema trifecta. All of them stand at the intersection of beauty and suffering, and while Babette’s suffering – and that of her two patronesses – may be subtler than others, we nevertheless feel it through the medium of art.

Pope Francis and I may find meaning in these works for very different reasons, I don’t know. Perhaps one day, after the fuss, scrutiny, demands, and accusations now directed his way grow routine, if not necessarily manageable, he’ll share some thoughts on art and film. I, for one, am interested in the aesthetics of this highly educated son of an immigrant railway worker, a bishop from the global South who cast aside trappings of power for simplicity and solidarity with the poor. (more…)