There is just enough goodness to rouse our hearts with expectation, and plenty enough sadness to cut us back down. When the cutting down exceeds the rising up, you wonder if you shouldn’t just stay down. “I wept when I was borne,” wrote the Anglican poet George Herbert, “and every day shows why.” Yes, life can also be beautiful. I am a lover of all the beautiful things in life. But may I point out that the movie by that name—Life Is Beautiful—takes place in a Nazi concentration camp. The story is precious in the way the father loves and protects his little boy from the ghoulish realities all around. But the father is killed at the end. Many, many people die horrible deaths at the end.
We need more than a silver-lining outlook on life. Much, much more. We need an unbreakable, unquenchable hope.
Standing at the window for my morning vigil, the amber light of dawn was turning every fall color an even richer hue. It looked like something from a painting—transcendent, mythic. And for a moment it all felt brimming with promise. You’ve probably felt that promise too, as you stood in some favorite spot, watching the beauty of the waves, spring flowers in the desert, walking the streets of Paris at night, sitting in your garden with a cup of coffee. Something keeps whispering to us through the beauty we love.
“Many things begin with seeing in this world of ours,” wrote British artist Lilias Trotter. “There lies before us a beautiful, possible life.”
I savor those moments; they are among my most treasured memories. But whatever it is that speaks such promise, it seems to slip through our fingers every time we reach for it. I know that simply wanting this year to be over isn’t the answer, because who really knows what next year will bring? “Each day has enough trouble of its own,” said the most compassionate man ever.