"That's the day I realized that there's this entire life behind things...this incredibly benevolent force... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it".
Ricky Fitts - American Beauty.
I was very interested to learn this week that some of those who had seen the stunning movie Avatar, had been feeling greatly troubled, and in some cases, suicidal, as a result, seeking to equate such wonder with the pain of our own world.
One viewer wrote: "I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning...(we) live in a dying world".
This rings true to something I have been reflecting about for sometime.
In 1 Kings chapter 10, we read of the royal visit of a Queen to the court of the great King, Solomon. This state visit occurred because news about the wonder of Solomon's great city had traveled across the ancient world, and people wanted to see such a spectacle first hand.
The impact of not only the buildings and wealth, but the wisdom this man had gained was palpable. Not unlike those so deeply struck by the film, the Queen herself was overwhelmed by the unique and distinct splendor of this place, which created genuine happiness in all of those who lived within its scope.
I've often wondered if the reaction of the Queen was in some sense a seed of inspiration for one of Solomon's own marvelous works - the poetry of devotion found in his Song of Songs, but one thing is for certain, the encounter with such beauty is both overwhelming and life-changing.
Perhaps it is one of the great sorrows of our times - that we very often cannot 'see' beauty in the fashion that many, like the astute Queen of Sheba, have done in times past. The encouraging gem gleaned from the Avatar example is that beauty can still overwhelm us, and thereby open our lives to a far richer and deeper reality woven into the fabric of our currently broken world.
There was a moment in the life of Jesus where His disciples were allowed to see Him transfigured, expressing something of His true glory and majesty to them. The result was immediate - they wanted to stay in that spot, in that moment, for the rest of their lives. I've often found when I'm confronted with the real Jesus of the Gospels, there is a two-fold response: a drawing that resonates in the deepest part of my soul, and a realization that I am not worthy of the wonder of the pure character of this Man - God's beloved Son. When we truly confront Jesus Christ, we encounter something which leaves that ancient Queen's encounter plain in comparison, for as Paul declares, all the marvel and beauty of creation is made and sustained by Him.
This world, even amidst all it's trouble, often furnishes us with moments of striking clarity, where we glance upon that deeper realm, which this earth, this tent of flesh we inhabit, is meant to know, meant to share, meant to make us truly whole.
If inspired by the beauty which surrounds us, rest a while beneath the shade of the Gospels, and learn of this one that the whole world has been talking about for some 2,000 years. Truly, there is a beauty here to make us all what we were intended to be.