Are You The Splendid Or The Vile?

In 1940, as Nazi bombs rained down on London, an observer noted the contrasts between the “natural splendor and human vileness.” This idea (which inspired Erik Larson’s wonderful book The Splendid and the Vile) would be born out over the next several months–not just the bombs falling in one of the world’s great cities, but also the human resilience and heroism in response to such villainy and evil.

The splendid and the vile…it’s always there, they are two sides of a coin, the ying and the yang of life. Look back at the last few years–there was the pandemic which was tragic and painful and scary, but there was also the way the world came together (at least in those early months), there was also all the time that you and your family got to spend together, a gift in exchange for all that was taken away. It’s been like this throughout history too, children who grew up in terrible neighborhoods but came home to wonderful loving families. Conversely, there were terrible families whose children found splendid goodness (and love) in a teacher, in sports, in art. Just as there have been times in your life where work was a disaster but you had a joyous three year old (or thriving thirty year old) to cheer you up, to make it all worth it.

The world is something we don’t control. It’s filled with human vileness and tragedy and frustration. It has always been this way. But whether our home, our love is a respite from this? A contrast of natural splendor? That is up to us. That’s something we can choose. And this ultimately improves not just our own home, but the world itself. It makes the whole place a little less awful and a little more wonderful.

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