Beauty – Where Have You Been?

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.

(Rumi)

About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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27 Responses to Beauty – Where Have You Been?

  1. Thank you Annette, for this wonderful post, indeed I agree with you. Yet I find myself discovering so much beauty in the so called “imperfect” things and objects, I am more drawn to those, they make me think and wonder, versus the perfect objects, there is beauty yet I get bored easily, because there is no challenge to contemplate or looking deeper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patti Ross says:

    Thanks for the reminder that we are the most important part of how we perceive and interact with the world. The beauty we see helps determine our actions which helps others see beauty too–it is an ongoing cycle!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cindy knoke says:

    This is such a beautiful post.
    True beauty is kindness, compassion, and nature, combined.
    Since we are of nature, our ability to exercise kindness and compassion, makes us one of nature’s greatest accomplishments.
    Our failure to exercise these choices, makes us nature’s greatest failure.
    It is our choice. And it is a clear choice now.
    I wonder how we will do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Suzanne says:

    This is a great post. I too have been thinking about beauty lately. I like your thoughts on beauty. For me it uplifts my spirits and reconnects me with… – words fail – Spirit comes closest.

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  5. Tish Farrell says:

    I want to hug you, Annette. So lovely to find you here this morning and with this heartfelt, uplifting post. Instantly has Leonard Cohen crooning in my ear – about the cracks in everything that let the light in. Which also has me thinking that our current and particularly driven desires for perfection (about our appearance, the little worlds we make for ourselves or how we perform) can be terrible traps. And we end up missing the actual, truly nourishing beauty that is everywhere if we choose to look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your bear hug across the Atlantic, Tish. I’ve been humming Leonard Cohen ever since you mentioned him. His metaphor of the “crack in everything” that allows the light to get in very much applies to my initial focus on imperfection. That was the crack or portal for me. And, yes, we do live in a world obsessed with perfection, maybe because we have created such a mess with our very imperfect ways of being in the world?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tish Farrell says:

        I like that image of ‘a portal’, and also that I started that good Leonard hum. I’m thinking that much of our desire for perfection is about dissatisfaction even though we have so much. Shopping World fills us with wants, and rarely meets our needs. And also has our minds out on sticks endlessly pursuing the wants that must always be ‘better’, instead of attending to our inner world, which gets a bit starved by all the distraction.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Your comment makes me think about a possible connection between the trash we are creating all over the world that suffocates the oceans and our lands and our spirit-starved selves that crave tangible objects in a desperate effort to fill the inner void. Makes me shiver…

          Liked by 1 person

  6. What beautiful and insightful musings on beauty Annette. I love this post and your heartfelt insights. I’ve always loved the Rumi quote and your last paragraph summed up beauty quite wonderfully; those times we connect directly, mind settles, and beauty shines.

    Thank you for this beautiful post! May we be open to beauty everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Donna King says:

    Loved this post. It comes at such a good time, too. I am reminded of the words of John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Wherever we find beauty – whether in symmetry and perfection, or in the beautiful imperfect things – we connect with the Divine. Often, we forget this, and then we feel disconnected and insecure. But the beauty is always there, even in the most unexpected places. It speaks to us and gives us hope. But first we must open our eyes to see it.

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    • Donna – I was thinking about that Beauty/Truth connection but couldn’t remember who said it. Thanks for bringing Keats in here! It seems that true Beauty is one of our direct connections with Spirit. John O’Donohue has written so many deeply insightful passages about Beauty (including the heart/spirit connection), I am hoping to write another post just focusing on his writings and what they evoke in me..

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  8. Love the Rumi quote. A wonderful thought to end my evening. Thank you.

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  9. So many wonderful ideas about beauty, Annette. I love finding beauty in the decrepit and in the ruins, and in nature, and in words. So much beauty around us if we open our eyes to see it. But I agree, it has been harder to find it in the last two years!

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  10. Pingback: Soulful Sunday 104- Beauty | writing to freedom

  11. Pingback: The essence of beauty – The Company of Spirits

  12. asqfish says:

    Thank you Annette I had read this on my phone but could not respond. The simplicity of beauty is so elegantly shared by you! Love the pictures and the memories that go with it. May you keep the simple touch!

    Like

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