Surprised by Sudden Beauty

This morning, when I opened my newsfeed and read down through the tragedies of the day, I discovered a collection of images of Dewali, the Hindu festival of lights which begins today. I found myself stopped and scrolling through all the many images of the Dewali lights and remembering that the seasons are turning once again.

I found myself so thankful that my attention had been captured, grateful to be reminded to notice the changed light of the early morning sun and the spread of yellow and red on the leaves of the Sweet Gum tree outside my kitchen window.

I had planned to focus in this post on the recent revelations of sexual assault and harassment, and the powerful #MeToo campaign that has demonstrated the truth that sexual violence remains pervasive in our culture. Or to hold up the almost incomprehensible attacks by our President on the grieving mother of a dead US soldier. Or… The assaults on our sensibilities and our values come almost daily.

Dewali is celebrated throughout south Asia and the Indian diaspora. The lights are kindled in joy at the victory of good over evil in an old, old story. In this season when the darkness lengthens and the powers that be seem intent on a headlong rush away from decency and respect, I know that that victory of the good will be a long time coming…at best.

I am not even sure that victory is a reasonable hope. Perhaps we will come to understand that victory looks like our willingness to engage constantly in the struggle?

We will respond to the violations, each one, and raise a voice for the power of love even in the face of hate. I know, or at least I believe, that our resistance will be needed for the long haul and that our stamina and our resources will be tested.

Today I needed to rest and reconnect and remember my place in the scheme of things. Perhaps you do as well. Perhaps my experience will prompt you to breathe a bit more deeply, feel the ground below you a bit more firmly and see the colors of the changing world around you more intensely.

I remembered a piece written by former minister of First Unitarian, Clarke Wells. I offer it here:

“I suppose I should write something institutional or churchly or ethical, but my heart isn’t in it. Where my heart is these days is between me and God, or whoever it is that turns the seasons and lays the sun across the trees with that sudden and terrible beauty.

I’ve been taught all my life to believe that growing up meant to become less vulnerable, that getting overwhelmed by life is what happens when you are young, that the charge of visions, feelings and nameless longing gradually spends itself in the process of maturing, that as we get older life is less tearing, not as confusing, ecstatic, strange.

I am here to testify to the opposite and to warn myself and others about what life has in store.
I was driving back from Lowell yesterday afternoon on some country roads, and I simply had to stop the car near a stone fence and go through the woods for an hour. It had nothing to do with practical matters or politics or theology or vocation or marriage or my maturity or immaturity. It had to do with autumn trees against the blue and shattering light and where I am with living.

I report it to you on the chance that you’re as odd as I—that it all gets more intense, not less—so that if you have to go through the same thing, like stopping your car for an hour, you will not feel crazy, at your age, being torn apart that way.”