Recently Maryknoll priest Carroll Houle posed this
intriguing question: What is more beautiful — a sunset or a cow? This reminded
me of an experience I had in Iramba Parish in Musoma Diocese, Tanzania in 1984.
Late in the afternoon I used to walk down into the valley on the sun-streaked
side of the rectory. I enjoyed the sights and the sighs of the small herds of
cattle ambling back to their pens. I never tired of watching the golden setting
sun framed by the darkening mountains in the distance.
One day I met Mzee Sira, the richest man in the
village, who owned over 500 cows. He stood at the gate in front of his simple
hut intently counting some of his cattle as they filed into the nearest pen. He
was totally absorbed in checking each cow, which he immediately recognized by
its distinctive spots and markings. As a respected elder in the Ngoreme Ethnic
Group culture Sira knew so very well that many cows represented wealth, prestige
and status. After watching him so focused on his precious cows I was suddenly
distracted by the breath-taking setting sun dipping below the horizon. Then I
realized that a sunset across the African plains is beautiful and a local
African cow is beautiful too. They are both beautiful, but each in its own way.
Truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder.