If you ignore beauty,
you will soon find
yourself without it…
But if you invest in beauty,
it will remain with you
all the days of your life.
(Frank Lloyd Wright)
The US election in 2016 and its ongoing aftermath stole my peace of mind and my commitment to Beauty in all her manifestations.
“These times are riven with anxiety and uncertainty given the current global crisis….Our trust in the future has lost its innocence” (John O’Donohue, Beauty, pp. 2-3).
Why would we invoke Beauty in such uncertain times? “Because there is nowhere else to turn and we are desperate, furthermore, it is because we have so disastrously neglected the Beautiful that we now find ourselves in such terrible crisis” (O’Donohue, Beauty, p. 3)
Thankfully, Beauty came knocking on my door again and I invited her in, like the old friend she is. Paradoxically, though, Beauty entered through a focus on imperfection.
It all started during a week-long beach vacation in December, off the coast of South Carolina. It was unusually cold and you needed a coat and hat for a beach walk. On top of that, I had a nasty cough that didn’t want to leave me. One day, as I left the house to head for the beach, I overheard an argument between a young couple. She wanted to drive but he accused her of being a lousy driver and insisted on driving himself. “What a way to start your vacation, an imperfect vacation,” I thought. Then the beach was covered with foam. What kind of pollution was that?
That’s when I decided to focus on all the imperfect and non-beautiful things along the way and what they could teach me.
I looked for all the broken pieces of shell, fragments and debris the tide had brought in. To my surprise, even these imperfect objects had their own unique beauty.
Why are we so drawn to perfect things, even idolize perfection? And why are “perfect” and “beautiful” pretty much synonymous?
Things we consider beautiful are often whole, symmetrical and perfect. Our eye is magically drawn to perfection – whether in a flower, tree, structure, human face, sunset, or a saying that lays open an important truth. Stunning beauty is perfection and we adore that quality.
When we glimpse Beauty and behold her, we also often experience awe, gratitude, and appreciation. Sometimes, though, greed and lust come along with Beauty. We want to own her, hold her, surround ourselves with her qualities, protect her against the rest of the world, shut her away so no one else can have it. But how can we really “own” beauty? I propose that we cannot own Beauty; the same way we cannot own the wind, the light, the air, the ground – we only think we own something when we have paid enough money to exclude others from what we think we own. We can harness the power of water and wind and sun, but we can never own them, generate them, or control them for any length of time.
What is Beauty and how does she weave herself through endless manifestations?
Does beauty remind us of our own inner core that we so seldom “see” but have no difficulty acknowledging in an external object?
Does beauty jostle our genetic memories of a more perfect world, the Paradise we lost somewhere along the timeline traveled by humanity?
Maybe Beauty is the unexpected gift of being touched by something pure and truthful, that pierces our usual defenses and armoring, our daily routines, and things we typically say to ourselves and others. Beauty strips us down to a full breath of air, allowing us to exhale after holding our breath unconsciously. She makes us pay full attention to that which reveals its perfection to us. She magnetizes our focus shutting out the non-essential.
Beauty – A moment of deep experiencing where nothing else in the world matters; a moment of grace where our mind chatter calms for once, and internal judgment stops in the transformative encounter with Beauty’s nakedness.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.