We Fight Back with Beauty

We had a great day yesterday at Tiny—week 2 of the Harry Potter series-within-a-series. (This Sunday’s installment of “parables and pop culture” is about reality TV and I have NO idea what I’m going to say. Anyone? Anyone?)

After yesterday’s worship and last week’s Young Clergy Women conference, today is a quiet, even melancholy day. I’m sad about the shooting in Wisconsin at the Sikh temple. (Read this.) A friend of mine got very disappointing news. A family I care about has been walking uphill in a health crisis for way too long.

Last week at the conference we explored many of the blocks to Sabbath-keeping. One of these, a big one, is the undercurrent of anxiety in our culture: anxiety over money, aging, time, you name it. This anxiety tells us that we can never stop. We cannot submit to the inevitability of getting older, we must resist it with products and self-punishment. We rest only if we’ve earned it.

To represent the pervasiveness of this anxiety, we made collages that we displayed on a big board:

(Incidentally, finding “anxiety” within newspapers and magazines is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s their currency.)

The next day I told them the story of Mario Batali’s restaurant after 9/11, how he stayed open and offered hospitality to shell-shocked New Yorkers as an act of defiant beauty. (I have talked about that story before on this blog.)

We fight back with beauty, I said. We fight against the chronic anxiety of our time with sabbath moments and a posture of trust. We fight back with unhurried glimpses of magnificent beauty.

I had placed colored paper on the tables and had people write moments of beauty they had witnessed or participated in. Then they placed these over the anxious messages.

It ended up looking like a crazy quilt of small and sometimes silly moments:

The anxiety does not go away, does it? It still peeks out. But it’s not the first thing you see.

So I will let today be a quiet, melancholy day.

13 thoughts on “We Fight Back with Beauty

  1. anne

    if i were feeling as you are feeling i might do one of 3 things: fold cranes, work in the yard—weed a bed or maybe trim shrubs etc, or spend time w/ a friend (just one, not a bunch). each of those things is restorative to me.
    maybe today is a day to begin planning a new writing project—about what to do on quiet melancholy days. i think i know you well enough to know that most quiet days are NOT melancholy for you.

  2. Purple

    Love the tactile practice you offered.

    Re reality shows: I just laugh when the purpose of the show is to be deceptive (I’m thinking Survivor, Big Brother) and then they all get bent out of shape when it happens…to them!!!

  3. Rachel Heslin

    What a beautiful, tangible analogy.

    Also regarding reality shows: what about exploring the differences between thinking one needs external validation (fame, etc.) in order to “prove” one’s worth versus the strength that comes from within and from connection with something bigger than oneself — ?

    1. Rachel Heslin

      Another approach to “reality” shows is what is says about those who watch. Is there an element of “At least my life isn’t *that* bad!” that could be addressed?

      Or maybe looking at the nature of vicariousness (is that a word?) vs. fully living one’s own life — ?

  4. susan

    I want someone to hire you to write your blog everyday. I mean, seriously, they pay dooce, don’t they? You have the best links and the best ways of tangling them together. Thank you. And I wish I had been at the conference. I hear you were stupendous.

  5. jharader

    I also wish I had been at the conference. Glad to have this glimpse, and glad to consider beauty over anxiety as I come to the end of a four month sabbatical.

  6. Jo Ann Staebler

    I dunno–I get pretty anxious when assigned to assemble a collage! Knitting on a prayer shawl is effective, as is lying flat on my back and listening to Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.” In fact, I think I’ll do that now.

  7. John Porter

    Perhaps a release from anxiety comes with age. At 85, I’m comfortable with my Father. We talk often, and discuss the worries of the world, but He lets me know that he’s in charge and for me not to worry. That’s comforting!
    For your pop culture sermon, think Andy Warhol. That sould get you started…


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