Beauty and goodness on an ugly day: a place to start prayer and action

When a tragedy of large proportions occurs, how do we begin to respond? Can we do anything helpful from afar? Aren't most of our attempts to be of support futile at best if we can't be there in person? Words sometimes feel inadequate to express certain thoughts, and attempts to describe experiences can be elusive. While aware of how words can fall short, I offer what came to me today in light of these questions. And I continue to listen and seek more guidance.

 

I had been planning to go to a local museum today, and I questioned whether this was the right way to spend the afternoon when I heard of the horrific events in Orlando last night. But then I saw this quote online.

 

Choosing to view beauty today was the beginning of a prayer. I saw it in the form of art and happy couples walking together and the view out the museum windows, and even in the delicacies at the cafe. I almost felt guilty drinking it in, and I found tears were in my eyes while I drank a cappuccino.

 

But I prayed that those who passed on in Orlando are in a place where they too can see beauty, and that their family and friends can find comfort and healing in tangible beauty too, and that those who would consider doing something so despicable out of their pain would be led to the light and beauty that can deliver them from that darkness.

 

It felt right to choose to appreciate beauty and goodness today rather than dwell on ugliness and destruction. It was a way of praying that felt real and inspired deeper prayer. I know this might not make sense to everyone, but we will all find the best ways to respond to this tragedy. May they be ways that lift us up and spark the constructive action that is so needed in this world, whether it be via art or science or social work or spirituality or education or other vehicles we can use. It is time to put our gifts to work in finding solutions, starting with the gift we all have: the ability to love.

 

This simple prayer of witnessing goodness in a moment of apparent extreme evil manifested in the world is not in vain. To me it echoes this message from Mary Baker Eddy: “It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness. Understanding this, Paul said: ‘Neither death, nor life, . . . nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’ This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man — governed by God, his perfect Principle — is sinless and eternal.” (Science and Health, p. 304).

 

While I was exploring the museum, an employee came up and explained one of the pieces to me. He and I agreed that we enjoy some contemporary art but find some of it disturbing and hard to understand (there were a few pieces that were quite gory and startling to look at). We shared how we appreciate art that is uplifting rather than of a violent nature. This exchange gave me a sense of solidarity in recognizing that even if we do occasionally have to look at things or events that are ugly, there is always a deeper beauty that must triumph, even in our world right here. And Christian Science teaches that this beauty and goodness is indeed the only reality, from which we can never be separated.

 

Zechariah 9:17 proclaims, “For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!” There is no substitute for devoted prayer and inspired action to address these major problems our world faces, and it would be naïve and insensitive to think that a trip to a museum could provide the needed fix. But witnessing beauty and goodness, an act which can lead us away from depressing rumination or fixation on repetitive news reports, opens our thought to fresh ideas for how we can contribute to healing the world. And that is a good place to start.