Wonder

Earlier this summer I watched the film “Children of Men” with Clive Owens and Michael Caine.  It is largely a bleak window into a future world where no children have been born for 18 years and everything is largely in chaos.  A young black woman becomes pregnant and there is a race to protect and save her.  For me, the whole movie was worth this one scene near the end where she walks down the stairs of a ramshackle building carrying her newborn infant.  There is a war raging around them as people try and take cover inside the building while police and military men storm in.  She tries to keep her child hidden and quiet, but the baby is crying with all the noise and is revealed beneath her cloak. 

There is this beautiful and perfectly poignant moment as she walks down the stairs past the men with guns.  You must remember that in the film, no one has seen an infant for eighteen long years.  There has not been any sound of babies crying, no young fresh skin revealed to the world, no promise of newness as the world descends into chaos.  As she walks past them, the uniformed soldiers all pause in a moment of rapturous wonder and awe.  One man crosses himself at this holy sight.  Then, just as quickly the scene returns to violence behind her.

This moment has stayed with me in the months since I watched it.  It speaks to me of the desperate need for moments of wonder in the midst of a world caught up in violence.  It makes me wonder about the places in my own life where I have neglected the celebration of new life.  It heartens me because I felt like that moment deeply mattered, despite the return to violence in the film.  I have been reflecting a great deal these days on the place of beauty in the world.  Awe and wonder are signs of being touched by beauty.  I believe strongly that beauty, as the great writer Dostoyevsky once wrote, will indeed save the world.  Beauty opens our heart wide like the lotus blossom and we are slowly transformed.  In this way, we are responsible for cultivating beauty in the world wherever we are, to participate in the world’s transformation.

     

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts 

(lotus blossoms in gardens at the Strokestown Park Museum in Ireland)

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you Elaine, espexially for sharing this beautiful quote. I will file it with my other sources on beauty. I couldn’t agree more.

    Thanks Milton. I think I may buy myself a copy of it.

  2. Thank you for giving me 5 minutes ….that stretched to more than 15 minutes….of beauty and wonder this evening, Christine. This post is a treasure that I will bookmark. The concluding sentence — yes, I believe this.

    Your post also reminds me of a back issue of one of my favourite magazines, Orion. The theme was “Wonder and Other Survival Skills” and the introductory editorial admonished us to slow down and replace our busy-ness with
    “….a conscious effort to give beauty, grace and wonder room to grow. If we did give them room, we might find that there’s no single thing we can do that’s better for the planet than to simply slow down, learn the flowers and let some enchantment with the world creep back in” (Orion, Spring 1998, page 3).

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