From page forty to page fifty in The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley I had marked three passages on the air in Beijing; though vindicated that the air really is that bad, I knew I had to stop. I was beginning to look for the next passage on the air and missing the bigger picture of the memoir for the sake of witty comments.
For example, Conley wrote:
The Beijing sky plays tricks. It’s a two-headed beast. Yesterday it was something to run from — thick and white and feverish. Today it’s blue and warmed with a fat, autumnal sun that transforms that city into something that makes sense. A city at the center of the universe.
That’s it! The air really does have two sides.
The sky looks smoggy. But this is an understatement, so let me try again. I can’t write ‘thick, noxious fog’ every time I want to invoke bad air, so I’ll just call it smog, and you can imagine the worst.
Preach it! and on page 50 —
Today is what people in Beijing called a ‘bad air day.’ It’s a mild euphemism for when the sky becomes so foggy I can’t see sky scrapers out my bedroom window. Right now we’re inside a low-pressure system that’s trapped clouds and moisture over the city like a lid. The smog begins to sting my eyes.
I read this book after my mom and chortled that I loved all of the air comments. She wondered if it was as bad as Conley conveyed because I don’t comment on the air that often. Let’s just say that when it’s reported as “crazy bad” and it’s like that more days than not, I have lost my will to point out the obvious. Shocking, I know since I point everything else out, but a girl’s got to draw the line somewhere.
As we celebrate advent, this season points to a savior who came not only to restore us relationally with God and each other, but the sin we have committed against creation. The air in Beijing isn’t supposed to be described as “chemical soup.” Though validating to read and be assured that those of us in Beijing are not OCD in our daily comments about the air in emails, greetings, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, and texts, it’s actually depressing and shameful. Oh Beijing, what have we done to you? What have we stolen? In Romans 8 Paul addresses this:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Come Lord Jesus, Beijing Air needs you!