Sunday, January 23, 2011

the young girl and the sea

Deep in the abyss it slumbers,
heavy, black, immense -
so still.
Slowly heaves, slowly undulates,
wider than nations,
deeper than thought,
ponderous and ancient.
Rising, spreading, growing,
burdens slipping away,
sucking in life from the tangy air -
it roars, and feels its strength.
Shifting and surging,
ever changing, unchangeable,
thundering its own mighty echoes
to the empty sky,
swelling to meet the clouds,
to embrace them and change them
and send them back
in vapors.
Raucous under violent skies,
crashing, divided,
a cacophany of powers
at war over nothing,
pounding and shredding,
it falls back at last,
Quiet, then, under furling reflections
of bluest sky,
the journey's length finds an object,
solid foundations,
and thrills at its nearness.
The rocky, sandy floor rises gradual,
tossing crowded waters into the air,
speeding on exuberant,
foaming, spraying, thundering
with joy uncontainable,
rolling over and over themselves
in ecstasies of liberty -
to spread themselves
at last,
spent across the sand,
prostrate at the feet of a girl.
A girl with a tan rubber heart,
rolled-up jeans and windy hair,
dipping raisin toes in the edge of the deep,
side-stepping back clumsy
when it races in to meet her.
Her tan rubber heart
looks out across forever,
feels the waves crash against it,
one by one,
surging out of the deep, forever,
falling back dripping,
coming again.
She stands on the edge of it and looks,
touches it, tastes it,
and scratches her knee,
and spits out a grain of sand.
What a piece of work is man,
the playwright knew.
Tousled, stumbling, a passing voice,
dust held together with invisible hands,
yet deathless,
a mirror of eternity,
made to magnify the One
that formed the deep from nothing,
and filled it,
and sends it charging with homage
to its inexplicable master,
and smooths it meekly
at her sandy, anointed feet.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

the painted veil

What is the strongest love?

Is it there when the flames leap wildly from a fresh-hewn torch swept through darkness, when passion's blood courses freely through channels of discovery, when only two lovers in all the world exist, and all else fades into oblivion?

Is it hidden in the gentlest touch, the softest murmuring voice, in the quiet romance of flickering candles reflected in dreamy eyes and fine crystal, when love's exalted object soars through a haze of gold, and vows of undying faithfulness spill easily from adoring lips?

Love may begin here, or it may not; but how can it be strong when it has only just been born - bursting perhaps with life, but oh, so very young?

Of all the strange and uncanny things made manifest in this wonderful, broken world, one of the strangest may be this: that the love that is strongest is found in the warm, quiet fire burning steadily in a well-worn hearth - in the one who finds good amidst the badness in another and embraces it all and is bound to it; who hurts this love and is hurt by it mortally, and yet - beyond all reason and beyond its own strength - forgives and goes on loving until the end.

The Painted Veil tells the brief story of such a love, foolishly begun, and cast foolishly aside at the first test. The film follows one utterly disenchanted couple into the heart of China, where cholera ravages the countryside, and where Walter (angry husband of an unfaithful wife) has volunteered to take charge. Intense suffering and hardship will not abide the wearing of masks, and wretched Kitty (the wife) soon learns that she has betrayed a better man than she deserves - has cast aside a treasure in her haste to snatch at glittering pebbles - perhaps beyond recovery. But the simple beauty of the story of their difficult and honest path to forgiveness and real, selfless love is well worth the pain of the journey.

The one gaping hole I found was that a story of such profound reconciliation could leave God so thoroughly out of the picture - except for one disappointing conversation in which a disenchanted nun refers to Him as a negligent and disinterested husband, to whom she feels bound out of duty, rather than love. In a story so full otherwise of redemption and truth, this is the staggering lie it pretends to be able simultaneously to believe. This is how close we can come on our own, inexcusable because we know what is good, but we cover our eyes against its true Source.

But if you can take the good and leave the bad, and fast forward through a couple of scenes, I would recommend putting The Painted Veil on your list next time you go to Video Warehouse or It's a fallen world we live in, and it's good for us to see the beauty God can grow from the ashes of our own devestation. He can change everything - even our own stubborn hearts.