The World is Still a Beautiful Place

Tuesday night, November 8, I am on a date with my wife. We share dinner and a bottle of wine. We walk to an arcade and play pinball. We shoot some robotic bugs called “Terror Bites” in a game calledTime Crisis 4. We walk miles in the early fall dark, making plans. The air is unseasonably warm.

This whole evening we manage to check our phones only a few times. Even those are probably a mistake, but once we hear rumours of Trump’s surprise victory waft over from the bar, how can we resist?

I don’t live in the United States. I have no say in any US election. Here I am in a tiny restaurant several hours away from the border, desperately concerned as Donald Trump is becoming the President of the United States. 

Wednesday morning I awake to this reality. I open Facebook and head to spaces where my American friends congregate. I read their status updates of confusion and disbelief. Where words have failed, there are only exclamations. I am heavy with the sadness of friends in the States who had hoped things would go differently. I have a lot of questions.

I head into work at the Anglican Church, where we start with morning prayer.  Today we are in our little community art gallery, Bleeding Heart Art Space. The Space sings with paintings and photos from people all over the city. We’ve opened our walls to one submission from anybody who wants to participate, and OPEN WALLS is a success with 60-odd pieces. When we offer people a space to speak, they take it. What they say is often surprising. Beautiful.

We are starting our prayers by walking the gallery and reflecting on pieces that speak to us at this moment. I spend time in a corner of collected nature pictures. Vibrant fall leaves painted and photographed. A beautiful, massive photo of Maligne Canyon. These are just reflections of nature’s wonder, not the real thing, but I feel peace in this corner. I am renewed.

Today, November 9, in the wake of an ugly American election, the world is still beautiful. Uncertain and confounding, but beautiful, too.

Our time of prayer together brings peace and comfort. We remind ourselves that this world is bigger than an election. That eternity is vast while moments are small. That God is in control, whatever that means on a day like today.

I’m glad to have the consolations and perspectives of an ancient faith, even while that same faith could be responsible for what just happened in American politics. What it means to be a Christian is a complicated question today, but I am willing to work through all of this mess.

There are those who believe God would have us close ourselves off to protect what is right. And yes, some of those people are crazy. Others are only hurt and afraid. But those are not the majority of believers in my life. What I have witnessed today, against all the odds, are faith, hope and love worked out by people who are putting on a brave face and setting their course toward love and understanding. Or love without understanding.

I open Facebook to read these words from one of our Bleeding Heart artists, Marcie Rohr;

 "Don't ever assume something is "in the bag" because life can surprise. Live your absolute best, try your hardest, and when people think you "will never" be able to do something, OR when people think you "will totally" do something, DON'T LISTEN, just try your best and give your authentic self in every endeavour. Don't look to the right or the left, don't put other people down just to make yourself feel better. Run your race, commit to being the most awesome, strong, mature, beautiful, shining version of yourself. "  

One feed over, local poet Lisa Martin offers the perfect expression of my own murky inner workings; 

"Hold space for anger and sadness and despair today, if you can. And bring to your heart what it loves, because we are all gonna need the kind of clarity and energy to work that comes from taking care of ourselves and each other. "What is possible now, given these circumstances?" is always a powerful question for human beings to ask, especially together. Love and care and imagination are always powerful ways of beginning to answer. Take care of each other. Be visible and vocal and above all kind in your refusals of hate and fear."  

All of this reminds me that the world is still a beautiful place, and we must increase that beauty.

Now it is Wednesday night and I want to write about all this, but I don’t have the energy. I pull up Netflix and watch a movie that’s been on my list for months; The Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack tells the story of an angry little dictator who lives in New York City. Really, this documentary tells the story of the family he controls. His wife and seven kids share a small apartment in a rough part of town, and they are rarely allowed to leave. The kids are homeschooled. Their lives are all about protection from dangers that lurk ‘out there’. This kind of fear-fuelled life does not make for healthy people, and we see that play out on screen. But there is hope.

Near the end of the film, the family takes an outing together. The father’s iron fist is opening to the world, if only a little. They visit an apple orchard, greener and more expansive than anything we’ve seen in the film to this point. You almost want to cry, watching the grown boys’ eyes widen at what must be their first experience of a place like this. Beauty is bringing freedom.

When Dostoyevsky wrote “beauty will save the world”, this must have been what he meant.

In one of my favourite songs, Bruce Cockburn sings about the ‘Last Night of the World’. He sings like a battle cry for the Sacred Small. 

“If this were the last night of the world, what would I do?
What would I do that was different? 
Unless it was champagne with you?"

Cockburn parses the pain our world is bearing, with or without Donald Trump in the Whitehouse, and realizes there are comfort and joy in a simple evening shared with his love. Kind of like my Tuesday date night.

Cockburn is reminding me that there is no reason to live at all, outside of enduring love. 

“If this were the last night of the world, what would I do?"

“What is possible now, given these circumstances?"

Of all our options, love is the most beautiful. 

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