A Terrible Beauty is Born

From time to time, other writers will add to the blogs contributed by Russel Moffat. This one is by Iain Morris who is the Director of Programmes for GTN

Is it just me or has Andrew Marr become the king of the prophets of doom? Witness the scene. Easter Sunday morning, 9am. With his accustomed confidence in asserting the issue of the day, emphasised by that downward thrust of the right hand, Marr lays into the words “the grim, grim situation that we face.” They resound like gun fire. ‘Grim ‘ is bad enough without the double dose. Not a flicker of hope or optimism in the despair-filled cloud of Marr’s determination to make us feel as bad as possible.

What it is to be without hope!

Yet we are not without hope! Take the progress being made by scientists to lead us more quickly than we were led to expect to the production of a vaccine. The glory and promised victory that comes from the gifts of human intelligence, creativity and understanding of natural forces, infused with courage and determination to succeed! Covid 19’s days are numbered. We have it in our sights. The gates of lockdown will be unlocked and freedom will be restored. But even now is there more than Marr’s doom and gloom? Think of the number of newly painted garden sheds, the sparkling patios, the polished cars. But these are peripheral.

‘There is something rotten in the state of Denmark’ opined Shakespeare’s Hamlet – an expression that Marr would have been proud to have enunciated, had he got to it first. And for sure covid19 is rotten! But look again. To borrow an expression of the poet WB Yeats ‘a terrible beauty is born’. Writing in the context of the Irish rising of Easter 1916 Yeats saw, amidst the ensuing carnage, the demonstration of courage and self sacrifice for a political cause. And don’t we see amidst the carnage of covid’s victims the beauty of self sacrifice? Why else do we, as a community, literally applaud the front line workers, principally, but not exclusively the staff of the NHS? The beauty of their dedication elicits an appreciative response.

But look too to the small emerging shoots of new ways of forming human bonds amidst the gulf of separation, isolation and lockdown. People approach one another on the path and recognise the need for divergence and separation. It’s rotten. But look again. There is the meeting of regretful eyes, a smile and a warm greeting across the divide that would likely have passed unexpressed in’ better’ times. And even as families mourn the gulf that separates them, they instinctively know they will come together with renewed appreciation of the ties that will be stronger than any virus can destroy. And in the midst, acts of kindness proliferate. In their isolation many are cared for – and know it- more than ever before. A neighbour places small Easter eggs on the doorsteps along the street. Appreciation of the smallest act of sympathy and kindness leading to stronger bonds and more meaningful conversation. A terrible beauty is born. And for the first time in history every member of the human race has an identifiable common enemy. We stand against it together. A terrible beauty is born!

That togetherness was shown in a moving way at noon on Easter Sunday in the BBC Scotland production ‘Reflections at the Quay’ (itself an outcome of an appetite for hope). As the curtain went up, there they sat, not only sharing the same (2 metres apart) space and contributing in a planned way to sharing the same script but sharing the same message. They were Archbishop Leo Cushley of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Here was another coming together. This time it is across a historical divide that has bred the virus of sectarianism for centuries. And their message was one of hope, based, naturally enough, on the resurrection and the Easter commemoration of the day that death itself was defeated. If this is true, thereby was born the most terrible beauty of all -and the greatest source of hope.

by Iain Morris

6 Responses

  1. /April 14, 2020/ by George Lind /

    Thanks for this upbeat and hope-filled message Iain. It is much appreciated and a provides a positive balance to the one which Mr. Marr chose to promote. I think Yeats wonderful “a terrible beauty is born” chimes well with Matheson’s great line “and from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be”.

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