Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paradox and Pain

Life isn’t always pretty. I mean this both metaphorically and literally. Sometimes it’s just so prosaic, it hurts. Sometimes its horrors nearly cancel out its beauties – nearly. The trick is not in blinding one’s eyes to those horrors, but instead in finding a way to allow life’s hideousness to co-exist with its sheer wondrous, sublime beauty. There was a time when I could not understand how cherry blossoms could continue to bloom in a world where children are sexually abused. It made no sense. The day after the 9/11 attacks, I could not understand how the sun shone, and people continued to laugh in cafes. But, somehow, both truths can and do coexist. Indeed, is it not the beauties that make the horrors bearable? Do they not, in some small way, even give one the courage to try to eradicate the horrors?

In other words, when, as a young teen, I learned the word “paradox,” I felt great relief. I did not have to reconcile the good with the bad. I could acknowledge and live with them both.

I began thinking about all of this when I blithely posed in front of this lovely but smashed mosaic. It matched my shirt and blazer, I thought, and the green eye liner and shadow I'd chosen to wear that day. But then I remembered the reason why this wall was smashed: a driver swerved to try to avoid hitting a pedestrian and hit this wall -- and the pedestrian was still rushed to the emergency ward. What a sickening juxtaposition! "Wonderful Living," and this accident; my trivial interest in style, and that poor pedestrian.

Yet there are always small beauties, even in pathos. I don't say this to dismiss the reality of the pathos. For me, looking for these beauties is almost an act of spiritual faith, not only a way to cope but also a way not to lose hope in life itself. Sometimes, they are even more beautiful precisely when they are ensconced in the ugly.

Like this argyle-like pattern in these rocks covered in mildew. Were it not for all the rain, this green would not be here.

Like the way I appreciate the illumination of colour in this lamp so much more in the dark, damp days of winter.

Like this silly kitty in an ugly, dank alley that was so intent on chatting and loving me up that I could not get a good photo of him.

Like the patterns of a wet fern.

Like a little embellishment and adornment on a battered body.

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