Well, she is learning not only to trust but also how we give signals that some situations may not be safe and trustworthy. We do occasionally have copperhead snakes, an invasion of yellow jackets who love to burrow in our black soil, hawks flying overhead assessing Skeeter's size and whether or not they might be able to scoop her up and ferry her to their nest in the woods adjoining our house.
So, yes, I could say that the backyard is a wonderful world. But there is the other reality of danger, cruelty, ugliness, and possible death. A lot of work and time made possible the azaleas, roses, daffodils, and a playground for all the little critters that call our home their home. This is the story of creation, I believe, not just of our yard but perhaps of this planet earth we call home.
In short, the aim of this writing is to reflect on the importance of this transformation when the terror and ugliness of life become a wonderful world that enables human existence to continue. An example is the movie "Good Morning: Vietnam." This stirring drama featuring Robin Williams and released in 1987, draws upon the real-life story of Adrian Cronauer who hosted a radio show, "Dawn Buster," in Saigon 1965, as the Vietnam War escalated. The movie minimizes the most awful battle scenes that flooded our television in the 60's, but we do see the ugly political chicanery of a propaganda that made even more hideous the fear, heartache, and despair of a people and the destruction of their culture and institutions. Then, poignantly and powerfully over the images of death, insanity, and despair, we hear Satchmo Armstrong's recording "It's a Wonderful World."
The effect is surreal. What can possibly be wonderful about this world of hellish apocalypticism? What did the director, Barry Levinson, intend by inserting Satchmo's hit of 1967 into a political, violent nightmare? Did he want to emphasize the insanity of this political absurdity posing as a war to protect democracy? I don't think so.
I cannot know what Levinson intended by inserting "It's a Wonderful World" in the soundtrack of a movie about the most divisive war in American history. However, whatever Levinson's intention may have been, I experienced the song as a message for the troops fighting the war, and for all of us observing the horror show, as a benediction for the terror and grotesqueness of the cruelest of wars. Soldiers going toward their death heard the blessings of peace filling the airways of that disturbed country turned into a war zone.
Whatever one's religious background, in the face of death the benediction of Satchmo's song may have brought the comfort of knowing that war does not have the last word. For some soldiers this song of hope and beauty accompanied the words of their chaplains going into battle with a centuries-old farewell:
May the Lord bless you and comfort you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
I include this benediction from the Prayer Book not as a religious token but as a way to say there is an archetypal reality in which death is transcended by the very power of Being. And this goes back centuries in which the world's major religions have affirmed our wonderful world in the face of human betrayal and yearning for power.
Consider for example the stories of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis. Most serious students of this centuries-old text tell us there are two vantage points in which to observe creation. The first vantage point, Genesis 1:1-2:4, tells the story of creation in terms of the "days" when the "world" came into being. The first day, light appeared. In the following "days," there appeared the water and firmament (2nd day), the dry land and negation (3rd day), luminaries (4th day), fish and birds (5th day), and land animals as well as people and the vegetation for food (6th day). Then, on the 7th day, the Creator rested, surveyed the works of creation, and said, "It was very good."
However, Genesis also describes another point of view, a story about the creation that presents a drama not so pretty as described above. In this second account of creation (Genesis 2:4-3:24), there appears in the text the old familiar story in which the serpent made a mess of everything, set up the rebellious foolishness of the first woman (Eve) and the first man (Adam), the antagonism of their Creator, and their expulsion from the garden where they had a pretty good thing going.
This account of creation (Genesis 2:4-3:24) does not describe the wonderful world we read earlier in Genesis 1:1-2:4. In other words, and this is important, the treacherous acts of betrayal and disobedience present another view of creation, its shadow side in which humanity's acquired power threatens to destroy the world. The Garden of Eden may become only a combat zone where as Matthew Arnold said, "Armies clash by night and the center will not hold."
In other words, this wonderful world is indeed good but not completely. We continue to hope. I believe in spite of our suffering, even in the midst of war and destruction, the universe continues to unfold in a purposive way that enables human existence to fulfill its potential. In a tenement flat in Brooklyn, a little four-year-old claims one corner of his mom and dad's one-room bleak home. In that corner, he hides a rock he found on the playground. With that rock, his imagination soars within a fantasy of a world coming into being. It is a wonderful world.