Recently, I read a 2006 interview in The Christian Century with Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart, in which he discussed his book The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami. The discussion I’ve quoted below reminded me of the “absurd impracticality” of human flourishing within a Christian conception. Though we are dust, and to dust we will return, we go on pursuing a life fully alive–not for the illusion of escaping death, but for the joy of grateful stewardship before our Creator and Sustainer.
To see the world in the Christian way–which…requires the eye of charity and a faith in Easter–is in some sense to venture everything upon an absurd impracticality… But, as I was writing the book, I found myself thinking again and again of a photograph I had seen in the Baltimore Sun.
The story concerned the Akhdam, the lowest social caste in Yemen, supposedly descended from Ethiopians left behind when the ancient Ethiopian empire was driven out of Arabia in the sixth century, who live in the most unimaginable squalor. In the background of the photo was a scattering of huts constructed from crates and shreds of canvas, and on all sides barren earth; but in the foreground was a little girl, extremely pretty, dressed in tatters, but with her arms outspread, a look of delight upon her face, dancing.
To me that was a heartbreaking picture, of course, but it was also an image of something amazing and glorious: the sheer ecstasy of innocence, the happiness of a child who can dance amid despair and desolation because her joy came with her into the world and prompts her to dance as if she were in the midst of paradise.
….That child’s dance is nothing less than the eternal dance of divine Wisdom before God’s throne, the dance of David and the angels and saints before his glory; it is the true face of creation, which God came to restore and which he will not suffer to see corruption. (“Where Was God? An Interview with David Bentley Hart.” The Christian Century 10 Jan. 2006: 26-29.)
(Photo by Flickr user Evan Long via Creative Commons)