Mother and daughter preparing tea in Lavasan, Iran. All rights reserved.
He let his mind drift as he stared at the city, half slum, half paradise. How could a place be so ugly and violent, yet beautiful at the same time?
-Chris Abani, Graceland
I came across this quote tonight while reading a book on poverty and the growth of slums worldwide. The quote really struck me because it reminded me of how much we judge people and places by their external appearances. It has always been a (optimistic) belief of mine that in order to appreciate the beauty of anything, we have to take time to really see. But it seems that as we mature, it becomes more and more difficult to see the good. We start to lose a little bit of the optimism that we had when we were young when we see that despite our best efforts, we are powerless to bring an end to the bad: poverty, violence, death, cruelty, and struggles for money and power.
But reading this quote has reminded me yet again that the ugliness of life is a part of life itself, and it may even be this very ugliness of life that helps create life’s beauty. I saw a lot of the ugly life during my research this summer. But within the slums and villages that I went to, I also had the blessing to see the simple acts of kindness and love that make it all worthwhile: mothers and daughters preparing afternoon tea together, young cherry pickers laughing and working together, keeping each other company on a hot summer day, and strangers preparing sweet sherbets and desserts for visiting researchers that stumble upon their tiny homes embedded deep within the hillsides of Tehran.