I watched a spring snow fall yesterday, flurries and flakes falling on daffodils and dogwood blossoms, tender tulips and sturdy stones. My lover slept beside me, enjoying a rare and well-deserved lazy morning. It is in the moments that I watch her sleep, those busy eyes and hands finally at rest, that I have flashes of her mortality, of the precariousness of this life.
Whether it was watching the snow fall or the lover sleeping that triggered it, I don’t know … but there was a sudden moment of painful and yet heart-filling clarity, a sense that awareness of this very real fragility and transience somehow go hand in hand with an equally real awareness of the preciousness of presence.
Questions came in the wake of the moment. Is this a true sense of how things are? If so, is this profoundly right, or profoundly wrong? If there is a God who created the world, and if God created the world in just this way, that what is seen and loved also is risked and ultimately lost, was that the best way to create the world? Perhaps the only way? That a world at risk was the only way to puncture the hearts of living beings with an awareness of the precarious preciousness of each person, each flower, each moment? Is this too high a price to pay for the awareness at the heart of what enlivens? Must life be so fleeting and at such (sure) risk? Or does it just so happen to be this way … that life is risk and loss, and to be alive to a moment is the only redemptive power we have?
Many of those roads lead to theodicy, of course, the question of how a good God could have created a world where bad things happen. But how much worse is it that in the face of this transient reality, in a world that consumes and is consumed, that our reaction to death or destruction is rage, protest, or apathy, rather than compassion? We rail against God … who continues to invite us into the messiest places that need us the most, the places where God already is.
I’ve thought it before and I’m thinking it now … most of what we term theodicy should be more aptly described as anthropodicy. I.e., how can human beings created good allow evil to continue, and compassion to fail?
But that’s not the question I’m grappling with today. Today it is trying to plumb the meaning of the moment that always slips away: a moment in which awareness rises of the preciousness of people and things and life, that awareness that arises before the disaster and tries to teach us attention to what is fragile and impermanent.
Before. It’s the moment of compunction that pierces our hearts; in the midst of a wash of late-afternoon light slanting under clouds and bathing all creation with gleaming gold, it’s the one ray beaming directly from the sun, through space, through trees on the horizon, through curtains at the window, deep into a dim living room like a camera obscura, arresting thought and breath and heart.
This is the moment I’m trying to stay with.
I am aware of the daffodils and dogwood blossoms, the serene beauty against red dirt and green pines. I am aware of the wreckage and deepening nuclear disaster in Japan. I am aware of my lover sleeping nearby, of the imprint of her touch, which rendered me whole and holy last night.
There is no real awareness of love without loss. These realities come hand in hand. Why do we insist on dulling the one in the illusion we can hold on to the other? Why question whether the world must be this way? Why ask whether this is how God thought it should be, and why?
Why not just take these two for the one they truly are: Life. For us, this is how it comes. Do it the justice of noticing. See with heart-rending clarity how precious this moment is. Hold love and loss in your hands, and let them break your heart. Let them break your heart wide open.