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)