Friday, September 19, 2014

Life is Beautiful!

Image from thegardenparty.co.nz
This past week, while I was on a research trip at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, I received news of another suicide. This time it was not a celebrity but someone close to my family. News like this cuts like a sharp knife. Breathing becomes more difficult when that heavy, dark stone has been dropped on your chest. Anger, sadness, despair, hopelessness, regret. These emotions flit through your soul with speed and sting. Without warning, your mind dives into dark thoughts and morbid scenes flash before your eyes. You have no words, no answers, no reasoning, nothing but silence and sighing.

I received the shocking news about fifteen minutes before I was scheduled to attend a performance of Medea, a Greek tragedy by Euripides in which a mother exacts revenge on her unfaithful husband by killing their children. I didn't know if I had the fortitude to see tragedy heaped upon tragedy, but it was a unique opportunity to see a world-class production and I didn't want to miss it. As I walked to the theatre in the fall sunshine, a phrase formed in my head and I felt the need to speak it out loud, to declare the truth of it to the dark lies murmuring in my head. I whispered: Life is Beautiful. I spread my arms out wide and took in the trees, the crisp, cool air, the wide, blue sky, and said it louder: Life is Beautiful! I took my seat in the dark theatre and as the play unfolded before me, every time the hopelessness threatened to creep into my soul, I chanted the mantra in my head: Life is Beautiful!

The play was brilliantly acted and the scenes ingeniously portrayed, but while I admired the stagecraft, I refused to give the characters any empathy for their destructive choices. I breathed the words, Life is Beautiful, but they could not hear me. They were deaf and blind, intent on deceitful and costly power games. A twisted version of justice became more noble than life itself. One of the most memorable scenes was one in which Medea convinced herself that killing her children was the best thing she could do. In an effort to still the voice of reason and the instinct of motherly love, she chastised herself, called herself a coward, beat herself on the thighs, and whipped herself into an altered state. She became an impenetrable fortress of cold determination fueled by wounded rage, unstoppable in her madness.

And still I whispered to her, Life is Beautiful. I felt sadness that she was blind to the truth, that pain had rendered her dull to the symphony of joy and love and life all around her. Pain can be a very loud siren call. Suffering can make slaves of us.

I do not have adequate words for my family. I do not have much in the way of wisdom or comfort. But what I do have is an unwavering conviction in my heart, in my mind, in my soul, in my spirit, that Life is Beautiful. And my hope is that none of us ever forget it, no matter how obscured our vision may be. Let us help each other see the beauty of this fragile gift, this thing we call life.

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. - Frederick Buechner

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid. - Frederick Buechner

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Matte I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

This is a beautiful post. Life IS beautiful...

Let us always help each other see it