Thursday, July 29, 2010

A beautiful sadness

Listening to Jay Chou, I can't help but wonder why so much of Chinese pop music consists of sentimental ballads about heartbreak, loss and regret. The compact beauty of the Chinese language, in which great depth of emotion is expressed in but a few words, seems to be uniquely suited for such lyrical lament. The end theme from the movie Curse of the Golden Flower, is a wonderful case in point. A valiant attempt is made to render the song in English, but even so, it is hard to capture the full richness of the original Chinese. The combination of poetic lyrics with intricate minor-key melody creates a feeling of exquisitely beautiful sadness.

Perhaps sadness is always preceded by joy, and a heart will only break for losing what it once treasured. Perhaps the beauty of sadness is in the joy of what once was. Perhaps joy and sadness are inextricably intertwined.

Is there no beauty, no joy, no love, that lasts?

The earth will never be the same again.
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried,
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
That every life is noted and is cherished,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

Madeleine L'Engle, from A Ring of Endless Light

God lives in eternity, and although we live in time, through the grace of the Spirit we may also be freed from time. But that is difficult for us to understand in the dailiness of living. We are born into time. Our bodies age according to time, and in time they will die. It is not easy for us to understand that eternity is not a time concept, that it has nothing to do with time at all, but is that fullness of God's love which transcends time.

Madeleine L'Engle, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth"

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Psalm 136