Beauty is needful always, but just now deeply. God help us, but we need the hope that comes when we see beauty. Flashy men can distract from the loveliness, the brilliant, but the soft beauty of the garden endures. The wise go to the garden and talk there with God.
The American poetic genius, Anne Spencer, is the beauty America always needs, but often ignores. She was centered, happy, yet realistic. Truth telling includes not just the bad news, but the beauty. Anne Spencer told it all. Man tries to impose ugly order on God’s creation, but God’s reality endures.
If you have not heard of Spencer, rejoice. You have now and all will be better. Spencer is willing to tell the truth: God makes a colorful world. All of us are people of color. Wicked men decided that some of us were “white” and stripped the wild and powerful diversity out of creation. This was a lie and an ugliness, but reality defied this lie. Spencer could calmly say:
Most things are colorful things —the sky, earth, and sea.
Black men are most men; but the white are free!
White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world —somewhere.
Finding earth-plains fair plains, save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of cowardice, as they passed;
The golden stars with lances fine
The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanched with their wand of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.
This is not “anti-white” unless any person or nation has chosen to embrace the lie of “whiteness.” There is a problem of whiteness, because of the lie, but there is no whiteness. We are all . . . Colorful. Since the lie has power, we must call it out, there is more to life than calling out lies. We can rejoice in beauty:
Black Man o’ MineBlack Man o’ Mine,
If the world were your lover,
It could not give what I give to you,
Or the ocean would yield and you could discover
Its ages of treasure to hold and to view;
Could it fill half the measure of my heart’s portion . . .
Just for you living, just for you giving all this devotion,
Black man o’ mine.
Black man o’ mine,
As I hush and caress you, close to my heart,
All your loving is just your needing what is true;
Then with your passing dark comes my darkest part,
For living without your love is only rue.
Black man o’ mine, if the world were your lover
It could not give what I give to you.
My Church, based in Syria and the Middle East, has ancient churches in Ethiopia. We are a church that refused the lie that the physical is evil and embraced all of our humanity: body and soul. The liars who created leprous whiteness were also the very sort that despised our full humanity. These liars, usually social Darwinists, rejected beauty for power and by jingo, they failed.
Spencer in a few words can describe her Lynchburg garden as greater than their empires of lies:
For Jim, Easter Eve
If ever a garden was Gethsemane,
with old tombs set high against
the crumpled olive tree–and lichen,
this, my garden, has been to me.
For such as I none other is so sweet:
Lacking old tombs, here stands my grief,
and certainly its ancient tree.
Peace is here and in every season
a quiet beauty.
The sky falling about me
evenly to the compass . . .
What is sorrow but tenderness now
in this earth-close frame of land and sky
falling constantly into horizons
of east and west, north and south;
what is pain but happiness here
amid these green and wordless patterns,–
indefinite texture of blade and leaf:
Beauty of an old, old tree,
last comfort in Gethsemane.
We need some Anne Spencer.