Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dark Side of Beauty And The Hope It Gives

I’ve often wondered why dark menacing clouds approaching from the horizon are so beautiful. I vividly remember one of the more awe-inspiring and spiritual moments of my life occurred while walking along Lake Michigan, on the campus of Northwestern University, on a windy, blustery day. A violent storm was rolling in, and the clouds crashed around like waves and were periodically illuminated from within by severe lightening. An ominous storm was coming, but I didn’t think that I should hurry home. I just stood there, struck by the beauty of it all.

Beautiful dark skies over a Kansas field. image source.
Why was this scene so beautiful? It is so dark and potentially destructive and, yet, something about it spoke to me in a way that a bright, sunny day with a warm breeze could not. It had an aesthetic resonance about it. I have the same experience with darkness in films, novels, and music. Isn’t darkness the villain, which should be tarred, feathered, and run out of town? Why would God create us such that darkness moves our soul in such a way? One would expect dissonance, rather than resonance.

Perhaps, our souls are just as out-of-tune as reality—our hearts and reality playing the same wrong note in the same wrong key. Or, maybe there is something to be appreciated about darkness. I think it is the latter.

Caravaggio's "Deposition from the Cross", 1602
This is where I see hope. The element of darkness makes for great novels, powerful scenes, and rich art. White-washing our art to make it sugar and spice and all things nice comes across as cheap kitsch. What if God knows that? What if God, who directs all of reality and even our individual lives, is writing a grand story—a story so magnificent that it will be worth celebrating for eternity? What if God is such the playwright, that he is weaving together a grand story with one over-arching narrative and yet still makes legitimate use of the relatively tiny details of our own lives? What if the horrific crucifixion of Jesus and the loss of my first child in miscarriage are integral parts of something far greater than I can imagine? What if this story ends so spectacularly that I’ll look back and say it was all worth it?

This means there is a purpose to our pain and our darkness. The brokenness of our lives will be redeemed for the beautiful story they make. Death, disease, pain, brokenness, hatefulness, poverty, and loss do not stand in equal opposition to the the Light. They stand in subjection to it. As Joseph told his brothers who sold him into slavery and faked his death, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...that many people should be kept alive...” (Gen. 50:20, ESV)

There are, no doubt, forces of evil that are morally culpable for the pain caused in this life. But, pain is allowed to remain for a purpose. Perhaps that purpose is beauty.


  1. I agree that light is beautiful because darkness exists. Likewise, darkness in our life exists to show us something more worth it. If darkness, all the turmoils, does't exists, we would not be able to appreciate what we have. I guess that is why God created such turmoils in our lives: in order for us to appreciate what we have. Although I still blame God for some troubles I have, I hope I will appreciate what I have one day, instead of complaining.

  2. I think that humans experience happiness because there is unhappiness, suffering and pain. If we only had happiness, we will not experience true happiness because we did not suffer or receive pain. However, since we have both pain and happiness, we know what the true happiness feels like. For example, if we have everything we want and there is nothing we wish for, we are satisfied but not happy. If we did not have anything, and we got one precious thing we wanted for years, we will be happy. I think God made both good and evil as one will help experience another. This blog made me think a lot and changed my thought that God should have made my life happier or without any unhappiness. -Kousei

  3. I agree that everything have purpose even the darkness, pain and unhappiness. I knew that unhappiness was created with a purpose, but I didn't think that it was a good thing. This post changed my thought. Now I think unhappiness is also the good thing because it shows us the happiness. -Juwon