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Ashley Hamilton, Malibu Resident
2:07 pm PST December 17, 2018

What would a survivor of the worst inferno in the history of a people make of a hilltop scorched by fire and shorn of his fellow people, where the site looked like a burnt offering not to God but the aftermath of yet another attack against God’s chosen people? 

What would he say without knowledge of the cause of the conflagration, if all he had were experience as his guide and suffering as his tutor? What would he do if he knew the culprit were the indiscriminate fury of nature instead of the worst elements of human nature, because the sole survivor were a giant steel menorah? 

I can only hazard a guess, but I do not think it is unreasonable to say the man would cry in solace and not in sorrow; that we are all thankful to see what endures, from the menorah atop Camp Hess Kramer to the cross that stands on the lawn of Pepperdine University; that these beacons of light shall shine not for eight nights but for countless nights; that the light shall not be a wildfire of darkness but a bonfire of enlightenment.

What, then, can we discern from the Woolsey Fire?

In a word: life.

Each life is a light unto the nations. Each life is brief yet brilliant, able to burn not once or twice a year but as long as free men — and women — do what is necessary to maintain the twin faiths of Judaism and Christianity, whose lights emanate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, whose lights emit rays of hope, whose lights exude the glories of peace.

The light belongs to all people. 

It excludes the wicked, provided we stop those who would pervert the lights of faith and family. It includes our community, which continues to come together to repair the Earth and revive the faith of the dispossessed. 

That the Woolsey Fire is a test of even the deepest faith reminds us that grace is meaningless without some measure of grief; that devastation sows doubt about the existence, never mind the benevolence, of a divine Creator; that it is beyond our ability to understand what we can never know; that we must accept what is or deny what may be, based only on what we can measure, in spite of what we may feel; in spite of what we do feel beside a hearth that is warm but not lit, beside a heart that is transcendent but not tangible, beside a home that is exultant but not extant.

Rebuilding Malibu will require acts, not faith, because no one will do for us what we can — and must — do for ourselves. 

Money can help the process and lawmakers can expedite the process. But neither the false gods of mammon nor the machine politicians in Sacramento can equal the resilience of the residents of Malibu.

We resolve to resurrect the spirit of our community.

It is alive already, visible from above and in plain sight from where I stand.

It is a sight to behold, of many acting as one.

It is a sight for the ages.

It is a snapshot of America, of one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It is a beautiful sight, indeed.

Ashley’s Angle is a monthly column from Malibu resident Ashley Hamilton. Hamilton is an artist and father who seeks to express the truth through his work. Ashley’s Angle will cover issues and politics which are relevant to the Malibu community at large. The opinions of this column are that of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Malibu Surfside News.