When an ugly tragedy strikes in a way that the whole nation feels, it may look like Beauty has gone into hiding. But, it is we who have turned toward our shadow side and away from her light.
"...beauty is the cause of of harmony, of sympathy, of community. Beauty unites all things and is the source of all things. It...holds all things in existence by the longing inside them to have beauty." (Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names.)
The beauty of caregiving lives amid the violence emergency department caregivers confront every day. And it lives in the hearts of the volunteer caregivers who stepped forward amid the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado to shield, to help and to heal.
The tragedies that are so often described as "senseless" tempt us to give into despair. Beauty holds hope in her arms.
But, heartbreak always holds the potential to notice Beauty's always-open door.
Before the trauma of a hard event, we may have fallen victim to the gray world of the banal. We may have allowed ourselves to fall into the shadows. Or we may do what one friend suggested recently by challenging me with this question: "Would you rather be a hostage of ego or a host to God?"
The choice seems clear. First, we have to recognize that we have this option and decide how to select it.
If we only look for Beauty in the easy and obvious places: the face of a flower, the smile of a child or the watercolor on a greeting card, we may find it only at its most shallow depth.
If we think Beauty lives only in the pretty petals of a rose, how will we be able to find it in the face of a blinded child, in the eyes of a legless war veteran, or in the wrinkled hands of an elderly man?
Great caregivers see with sacred eyes. They learn to find Beauty in the courage of a dying patient, in the sweat of a laboring mother, in the skilled hands of a trauma surgeon, in the voice of a loving chaplain, or in the words of a talented poet or a gifted artist.
In George Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan the inquisitor mocks Joan's "voices from God" as coming from her imagination. She responds, "Of course, that is how the messages of God come to us."
Joan made her turn to the beauty of Radical Loving Care. Can we?
My body, like yours, can throw a long shadow. Of course, I am not the one that casts it. The sun behind us does that.
Photograph: Self Portrait - Shadow - copyright erie chapman 2012