Seeking beauty in hard times
A friend, Ray Woo, took this photo from his apartment in the Honolulu building in which we both live. The view is of the Pacific at sunset the night before hurricane Douglas was forecast to strike Oahu. Thankfully, Douglas turned north and veered into open ocean. The beauty of the sunset, however, is striking.
Had Douglas struck Oahu, the sunset’s beauty would in no way diminish or justify the harm the winds and rain would have caused. The Bible encourages people to seek the good that may come out of bad things. Yet the Bible never suggests or implies that the good in any way justifies the bad from which the good emerged.
Similarly, suggesting that Covid-19 represents God's judgement on certain people, beliefs, or practices shows incredible hubris and terribly distorts who God is. God, in all of the world’s major religious traditions, is good and loving. God never wills bad things for creation nor increases the bad that exists. Metaphysical answers to the perennial question of “Why?” are as unknowable for twenty-first century people as those answers were unanswerable to the authors of the Old Testament book of Job. God consistently desires that people experience God's love, liberation, and live abundantly.
After four plus months of a global pandemic with millions of cases of the Covid-19 virus, tens of thousands of deaths, lockdowns that created widespread economic hardship, physical distancing and wearing facemasks that endanger community while preserving life, and other hardships, people increasingly want to return to normal, whatever a new normal may be. In the meantime, I find solace in moments of beauty.
The human aesthetic sense is one of the vital expressions of the human spirit. Finding and cherishing moments of beauty in nature and in others offers a respite from bad news, offer a momentary oasis of peace, and a sign that God has not abandoned the world.