After visiting an area of Japan that was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake, Makoto Fujimura had this to say to Belhaven University students:
"As I was driven back to Tokyo… the Zao mountain range appeared beyond the clouds, with cherry blossoms in full bloom, enchanting the villages tucked away in the crevices between the mountains. It was hard to see scenes of such beauty—the trunks of the trees, with their wet-darkened bark—when the disaster was freshly etched in my mind. Thousands were still unaccounted for. My heart felt numb, and the beauty I saw seemed cruel.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So begins T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, published in 1922. April is indeed cruel with the lilacs or the cherry blossoms at the peak of their beauty, invading the "memory and desire" of our ravaged hearts. We are awakened to horrors and terrors, but nature does not wait until we stop grieving. It moves on, as does the world, without empathy or knowledge of what really happened. My visit to Japan echoed Eliot's lament: beauty and trauma are forced to dwell together.
Today, you begin a new journey, and for you it is a bright April, full of hope. But we must also remember that for many April has been the "cruelest month." We must learn… to engage our creativity within the harsh confines of our broken world and the wide spaces of creating the 'World That Ought to Be.'"