Music of the Week — August 26, 2007
No Mortal Place At All

Sunday Night Journal — August 26, 2007

Such Beauty Can’t Disappear

A week or two ago I linked to an entry on Rod Dreher’s blog where a Russian woman who signed herself simply as “Masha” had left some comments that struck me as beautiful, so much so that I’m going to reproduce them here in their entirety. I can’t ask her permission as there’s no way to reach her via that blog, but would certainly be happy to give her credit if she should see this and contact me. Aside from correcting a few spelling errors, I’ve left her words as she posted them.

If it is possible to call epiphany some particular moments which made me think about God's existence, there were some. Perhaps they are too banal.

1. First time—aged 13 or 14 i was sitting by the window at the second floor of our house (in the evening) and looking at piles of clouds and slanting beams coming from behind it, pile of clouds looked like a mysterious city, in the garden where many blossoming flowers and scent of wild roses reached balcony, i thought about paradise and that i m such lucky person to live in it—such beauty around and no one of my friends or relatives or even acquaintances ever died, i lived in the world where death existed only in books or TV and then thought about my grandfather who was about eighty and soon had to die, and looking at that city of clouds through hand i closed eyes and imagined that when i open eyes it will look like hand of 90 years old woman, tried to persuade myself that life will pass the same quickly as closing and opening of eyes—the clouds will look the same, roses will smell the same and i will see the same tops of pines and birches, i thought that such beauty can't disappear and my grandfather will not disappear and perhaps we will meet after death. the city of clouds looked very material and it encouraged that thoughts

2. Second time—several years later—we visited cemetery one morning in May, also nature was blossoming, and suddenly we heard singing of psalms or something other religious, it seemed strange in deserted end of cemetery overgrown with trees, we went to the voice and seen an old priest at one of the graves singing alone, he looked big and respectable, dressed in red-golden clothes (it was in closest weeks after Easter), he waved censer over the grave (the grave was old), he was completely absorbed by singing of that psalms or prayers and obviously did it with all his heart, bumble-bees flying around and birds singing, the whole picture was so beautiful and inspiring that i again thought about eternal life.

Posted by: masha | August 17, 2007 4:47 AM

And third time was 2 years ago, when i first seen mountains. In moscow region landscape is either flat as chess-board or has small hills, i hadn't seen even big hills before going to Crimea, and i didn't expect mountains would impress me, after seeing them on tv and on pictures, besides, by 25 i became very dry cynic. But when i seen big hills in both windows of car it was such a joy that it was taking my breath away, and when car made several big turns suddenly appeared a view which almost made me cry—gigantic mountains and rocks and light blue sea looked simply unreal to me, i never expected that such beauty exists, i have been there again this year, tears didn't appear this time but still it brings to mind one psalm (i don't know it in english) about greatness of creation, there are words 'above mountains will stand waters' (it is frightening even to imagine how above mountains can be water)

Posted by: masha | August 17, 2007 4:55 AM

“Such beauty can’t disappear.” This is something I think about frequently. Three times last week within thirty-six hours I witnessed beauty that shouldn’t disappear. Early one morning, down by the bay, there was an offshore breeze broken by the trees on the shore so that the surface directly in front of me was mirror-smooth, while further out, where the waves were stirring, was a sailboat, white with a white sail and gleaming in the sun, moving slowly parallel to the shore.

That evening I walked down to the bay at sunset for the first time in many months and was well rewarded for my trouble. It always makes me a bit ashamed that I take these sunsets for granted. Cynics may think it banal to be enraptured by a sunset, but that’s only because it happens every day and cost nothing but a moment’s leisure to observe: if sunsets were so rare that one could hope to see no more than one or two in a lifetime, or if access to them could be restricted and sold, they would be cherished and treasured more than diamonds.

Around eleven that same evening, at the bay again, the moon, waxing a little past its quarter, hung low in the southwest, bright enough to create a pathway of light on the water from me to it, then slowly disappeared into the murky clouds nearer the horizon.

But now, only a week or so later, my memory of these images has already become a bit vague. I’m losing bits of them, and even at best memory is not nearly as good as the real experience. And moments like these generally don’t have any significance outside themselves: how much more difficult is it to accept the loss of pieces of our lives that were not only beautiful but also filled with meaning, like Masha’s epiphanies, either in themselves or by virtue of their place in a human relationship? How many parents, for instance, can be content never to see their children as children again? I find it very difficult to accept that these moments are gone forever as soon as we have experienced them.

In fact I don’t accept it. From the point of view of eternity, those moments will always exist, and I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to believe that we will somehow have access to them in the life to come. Nor does it seem unreasonable for me to be schooled by a thirteen-year-old girl in this question—personally I had more sense at thirteen than at twenty. The obvious objection, of course, is that in heaven we will no longer care about anything that happened in this life. But that seems to me to reduce the significance of our lives, and if there’s one thing of which I feel confident it’s that these moments are significant, and that our intuition of their meaning is a real perception, not just a passing sensation.

Surely in 2000 years this idea has come up and been considered by saints and theologians. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than I can tell me whether there is any widely accepted opinion on it.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)