Saturday, March 12, 2011

In need of beauty

In the face tragedy even as the tremors and fears continue here in Japan, I wonder at my feelings of strangeness. It's as if by not being caught in the mesh of disaster, I am guilty. Sending notes to inquiring friends and family forces me to reassure them and myself that we are ok. But ok to do what? What are we missing while we watch the disaster videos over and over as we sit spellbound by the loss and destruction?

The night of the earthquake and tsunami here in Japan, the kids asked me to read two story books. The electricity returned just as we started to read by flashlight in mama's bed. Dada also returned at that moment by a crazy bicycle ride through a dark night and a mass of Japanese people walking toward homes while texting on their cell phones so oblivious to the rider. The stories they asked for were Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa and Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.


Tsunami is a powerful story of destruction and of sacrifice which always moves me. The grandfather saves the villagers by sacrificing his wealth. It must be a true story some where in Japan as it feels so true.

In Thunder Cake the author writes of how her grandmother cured her of her fear of thunder through the gathering of ingredients to bake a cake while counting the seconds between the lightening and the boom of the thunder. I love stories of transformation and beautiful pictures. I was happy to read these stories on that night. I feel in need of more of these kinds of stories of transformation in light of the death and destruction taking place so vividly north of here.

"Straightaway I was 'ware, So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--"Guess now who holds thee!"-- "Death," I said, But, there, The silver answer rang, "Not Death, but Love." writes Elizabeth Barrett Browning in "Sonnets from the Portuguese." I think Karen Carpenter sang the song, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love."

John O'Donohue speaks about beauty as a way that God is present to us. This sits deeply with me. It is through beauty and love that we grow.

Contrast beauty with the paralysis of the destruction- where one prevents movement, the other gives us courage to dare.

We need art and beauty. O'Donohue chides us to not "mistake glamour for beauty." In the The Invisible Embrace of Beauty he chides us to bring beauty into modern life whether it is a beautiful landscape or a warm and compassionate voice. Beauty offers us hope. Let us seek beauty instead of replayed destruction and fear that inhibits.