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.