Lessons Learned Under A Cherry Tree



I've shared this here before but I often will discover a phrase, a poem, a snippet from a song that I resonate with, and I'll write it down.  Typically, it takes me some time to truly understand why it resonated with me, and sometimes I have to be in the right mental and emotional space as well.  

I have this amazing anthology of poems about impermanence and beauty that I read from fairly often.  The following poem is one that I wrote down weeks ago, and I have been looking at it almost every day since. 

Under cherry trees 
there are no strangers.
- Kobayashi Issa  

Today was the day... when I read that poem this morning for probably the twenty-first time, I was struck with an image that has been in my head ever since.  Let me see if I can describe it. 
I am standing under a cherry tree near the National Mall in Washington, DC.  I can see the Jefferson Memorial off in the distance.  The blossoms are drifting down softly all around me.  One lands on my arm and I stare at it, marvelling at its fragile beauty. 

I'm not alone under the tree.  There is a family with small children, a young couple and an elderly woman there, too.  Everyone is staring in wonder at the riot of pink and white petals that take our breath away, making us speechless. 

In one small moment, we all look at one another and smile.  We are connected.  We are awash in joy.  We are one---celebrants together at the altar of goodness and beauty.  
There are so many reasons why it has been so hard to feel connected to one another right now---COVID being the chief of those reasons, of course.  

But there are other reasons, too.  I'm beginning to believe that we have lost some of our ability to look past the anxiety of the moment and truly see one another.  We've become so accustomed to ugliness lately that it's hard for us to see the beauty.  

Here's something that we all need to know:  Beauty can save the world.  

What I mean is this.  When something is good, beautiful and true, it's indisputable.  There are no divisions over it because the thing itself transcends such pettiness.  

You can't stand under a cherry tree in full blossom and not be struck by this.  

And if there are others standing with you---no matter what else may divide you---there is a sense of unity, connectedness and belonging that brings everyone together in a shared experience of wonder and joy.    

So the questions I have are as follows...  

Why do we tend to gravitate so often to lies and ugliness instead of truth and beauty?  What is it about the outrage that makes it so much more appealing than peace?  Why is it so important for us to be divided when there are so many more things we can find unity around?

The Apostle Paul wrote that "all of Creation" longs for the shalom of God to permeate all things, everywhere.  We long for this, too.  We always have.  

But we also tend to choose the one gnarled, nasty tree in the Garden to stand under instead of all of the ones dripping with life, color, goodness, and beauty.  And in our wrongheaded desire to do everything our way, we usually decide to eat the poisoned fruit from that tree, too.  

And so it goes. 

Maybe it's time to do something different for a change.  Maybe it's time we pushed away from that gnarled tree and began looking around at all of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is out there for us to share.  

And maybe we'll find each other again as we stand together under new trees and share the feeling of soft petals on our faces---petals that have been tinged with grace, and sent earthward in mercy.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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