|Morning light on a sycamore leaf.|
"Everybody," wrote John Muir, "needs beauty as well as bread."
As much as I'd like to believe this statement, I've known individuals whose lives were too filled with themselves to allow beauty in any form to enter their darkened consciousness. Nothing, not a flower or sunset or range of mountains lifting into the the sky was, to them, beautiful. They saw no beauty in art, heard no beauty in music, the song of a bird, or the laughter of a child. To acknowledge beauty would be to acknowledge something greater than themselves—a power capable of stirring their soul.
The flip side of this reflects the thinking of Kahlil Gibran: "When you reach the heart of life, you shall find beauty in all things."
No, sorry to disagree again, but just as there are individuals oblivious to beauty, there are also things devoid of beauty. Hatred is not beautiful. Neither is cancer. War is sometimes necessary—and I certainly believe fighting is justified for those things we hold most dear; on this point I'm more hawk than dove. I also believe there are moments of beauty to be found within war…acts of courage and compassion, both of which are beautiful. But war is not beautiful. The list of not beautiful things is as long a Marley's chain—from the loss of whole mountains to surface mining to the stinking concrete clutter of industrial sprawl to the brown plume of chemical waste pumping into the turquoise of an ocean bay. Beautiful? Not in the least!
I do like what Thoreau wrote. "The perception of beauty is a moral test."
Here, I think, we come to the crux of the matter, to what I believe and feel about beauty. "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful," said Emerson, "for beauty is God's handwriting—a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." In this declaration I find both discernment and reason. Not all things are beautiful, but when you come upon those which are, take the time to savor the gift. For in so doing we open our hearts to receive the positive power of beauty—the peace and uplift, the blessing. At the same time we renew our connection to that great force which lies beyond us as mere individuals—the power of nature and love that resonates in our soul.
In beauty we find both our humanity and creator.