Even Beauty Cannot Save Us
David R. Weiss – February 5, 2022
I am at the Minnesota Orchestra tonight for a concert of East Asian orchestral music to celebrate the Lunar New Year. And my eyes are moist with tears while my heart breaks wide open at the beauty of it all.
If you ask me, a concert like this carries the dream of global unity far better than the Olympics. This music, coming from Korea, China, Vietnam, and Singapore offers stirring evidence of universal themes in human existence. Life, love, longing. Captured in music that evokes teary-eyed awe.
Alas, it will not save us.
Still, this is one gleaming example of the best of who we are. Truly. In these moments, when the orchestra brings this music to life—and when we appreciatively receive this gift—we encounter something More, something so transcendent that we hover at the edge of Holy. Such beauty!
But it will not save us.
My tears are bittersweet. Supremely so. Sweet because this is what we were meant to be. Bitter because too much now I have caught wind of tomorrow. Our world will unravel. Is unraveling. Our future was fractured—our grandchildren’s forfeited—in decades past.
And now even such beauty cannot save us.
This orchestra, this music, this concert, embodies the possible. That humanity is not destined to be inhuman. We are capable of beauty. Worthy of awe. Created for conviviality. Ennobled by compassion. We can be transfigured by joy.
But none of that will save us.
The world has turned. Past tense. And is still turning. Imperfect tense: damning tomorrow with today’s inertia. We imagine it can never be too late. Of course, once we come to our senses, it will all be okay. We’ll fix things. No. We have no idea what we have done.
We dare not gauge the damage. Nature may well love us (although the phrase rings anthropomorphic), but she does not negotiate. And our tab is well past due.
So, tonight in Orchestra Hall my eyes are wet with awe. And grief. Tinged with gratitude.
Even beauty cannot save us. But it might salve us yet. It might not only comfort our wakened, wizened souls, it might also enable us to affirm of our spirits: this is who we are. Not were. ARE.
A salve. In the ruins of what once was—but was perhaps never meant to be—beauty (and awe, compassion and conviviality, even joy) might yet be our last testament.
It is too late to save us. But it is not too late to sing.
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David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist, doing “public theology” around climate crisis, sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. Reach him at email@example.com. Read more at www.davidrweiss.com where he blogs under the theme, “Full Frontal Faith: Erring on the Edge of Honest.” Support him in writing Community SupportedTheology at www.patreon.com/fullfrontalfaith.