There is a common theme among this week’s readings and the Atomic Books event that I attended on Thursday. The overarching theme is, that although God is ever-present in all things and on Earth, we often do not recognize his presence until reminded by something traumatic or beautiful. This notion is important to recognize, especially as a Jesuit community. The authors’ pieces help us to realize our ignorance of God’s presence in an attempt to remove the separation between our lives and the world that God has created.
In Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, a serial killer murders a bickering family, on vacation. This serial killer, ‘The Misfit’ as he is called, points out that their family, although claiming to be Christian did not act polite or with a good heart until facing the barrel of the gun that would end their life. The family complains the entire road-trip. Grandmother whines that the family isn’t going on her ideal vacation, the children are rude to their waitress when they stop to eat, the father, Bailey, is annoyed and snaps at Grandmother, and both Bailey and his wife seem more preoccupied with their baby to pay attention to their children. Jesus cannot be seen in the hearts of this dysfunctional family, and yet, this family reminds so many of us of our own. It was not until faced with her death that Grandmother began to pray, although boasting in her connection with God, and is killed. It is important that we recognize that God is all around us and that we pray not only in our time of crisis, but that we see that he surrounds us always.
In Gerard Manley Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, the speaker despairingly wonders why people do not recognize God’s greatness when his presence can be seen in every corner of the world. He uses difficult alliterations and consonance when saying, “Why do men then now not reck his rod?” in line 4 to show the reader how hard it is for him to wrap his mind around humanities ignorance of God by making the line difficult to say. The speaker then goes on to show how God’s greatness can be seen every morning and evening with the sunrise and sunset, and that such beauty in nature never ceases to exist. The speaker shows us that it is important to recognize the beauty in our world as part of God’s greatness and not to take for granted the seeming perpetual occurrences of even sunrises and sunsets, as they are also gifts from God.
In Jane Hirshfield’s Happiness, the speaker uses an allusion to St. Francis and his connection with nature and animals to show that God is present in all things, including nature and even the lowliest organisms on earth, even amoeba. St. Francis believed that nature was a mirror image of God. Finding the good in all beasts, trees, and creatures, St. Francis believed that God could be found by looking at nature. The speaker follows this idea and suggests that he learned how to live with mercy by the animals he communicated with. The idea that God can be found in nature is important for us to realize. Often we think of animals as primal and non-thinking, but it is possible to see the beauty of God in even the subtle actions of amoebas, fulfilling their fate just by existing in their environment.
This week I attended Ron Tanner’s book reading of “Kiss Me Stranger” at the Atomic Books, Atomic Fiction Series event. This book, centered on a civil war ridden society, emphasizes the everlasting theme of love, even through the hardships of war, poverty, and when life just falls apart in general. For instance, when the eldest son character in the book, Lon, is patrolling with his squad in the Revolutionary Army, wearing duct tape for shoes, a metal pot for a helmet, and freezing, meets a platoon of women. Having long since left his hometown and family, he had not seen the face of a woman in what seemed like ages, and he was drawn to their beauty. It seems that the beauty of these girls sparked a revived sense of beauty in the war-torn world that he had been fighting in. The theme of love in this book very closely relates to the theme of this week’s readings. Love, relating to God and God’s love, is ever present in our world, even in the harshest and most weary times of our lives. By realizing that both love and God are present always, we should not forget their presence and should be appreciative and admire the beauty and greatness of God.
These readings along with the Atomic Books event both center on the idea that there is a central and everlasting good in our world. This “good” in Ron Tanner’s book “Kiss Me Stranger” is love. In our readings this week, the central “good” is God, but both God and love are very closely related. As a community in a Jesuit faith, we have been prompted to, “See God in All Things,” these readings and the event give an excellent representation of the joy that finding God in all things can bring, and Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” also warns us of the consequences of ignorance. As a community in this world it is essential for us to recognize love’s and God’s everlasting presence and not to take them for granted, as life is short and it may soon be too late to appreciate our blessings.