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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Why is the world so beautiful?

Why does grass still sprout over graves, and why do trees still grow when they were once fertilized with the blood of the innocent? Do they have no shame that they continue to spout life on ground where the dead will never rise again?

God loves us—so why is the world so beautiful? Can He not let the dead rest and the living heal without boasting vibrant flowers and chirping bugs and birds that mock tragedy?

My roommate and I attempted to wash our dirty clothes in the shower with laundry powder, a hopeless and amusing experiment. We giggle and mutter, “Oh my God.” Later, some of my group members choke down a spicy zucchini dish at the Chinese restaurant where we ate dinner. They laugh as their eyes water with heat and joy. Why, why is the world so beautiful?

At funerals, how can we laugh through tears when remembering a story about our loved ones now gone? How can a woman in Rwanda forgive and be neighbors again with the one who murdered her family?

How can I walk through the killing fields in Cambodia, and smile when I notice butterflies floating above me, like dancing children with wings? It’s just that the ground has so many craters in it that mark mass graves, it looks like the surface of the moon. Here, simple farming tools turned into brutal weapons of mass destruction. They are the same tools used to plant fruit trees and harvest wheat for bread. God—please answer me—why is the world so horribly, and heartbreakingly beautiful?

Maybe it’s climate change that has caused the world to burn up in a deep fever dream; yet instead of the world waking up in cosmic sweat drenched sheets, it remains asleep, dreaming up vivid and dazzling nightmares in which we live in. Some are poetic, others tragic, and all are surreal. Yes, I wish all the fear and pain that exists in the world were only dreams. But they are reality, and so is the beauty.

Why is the world so beautiful? Please, someone tell me, why beauty and horror can exist within the same realm. Is it horror that’s created, from purity and beauty dissolving? Or is it beauty that only blossoms in the world, when it is healing from horror?

In this very moment, grass is regrowing over a grave just covered. To a blade of grass, growing is like breathing. It cannot choose to stop, or pause. It just rises through the soil, and even when cut, it does so again, and again. My God, why is the world so beautiful?