Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. -- Roman, 3rd century BCE
Beauty is before me, and beauty behind me, above me and below me hovers the beautiful. I am surrounded by it. I am immersed in it. In my youth, I am aware of it, and, in old age, I shall walk quietly the beautiful trail. In beauty it is begun. In beauty, it is ended. -- From the Navajo Indians, N. America
I have been thinking a lot about beauty lately. What it is, and how we decide? Do we, in fact, decide at all, or are our tastes and ideas of what is beautiful so reflexive that our eyes and minds apply labels before we even have a chance to think?
Recently I’ve been thinking that maybe ‘beauty’ is too loaded a word, a concept, and have instead experimented with the idea of seeing gifts rather than categorizing things as beautiful – or not. For example, last week I was riding the train through a particularly graffiti-heavy corridor north of Philadelphia. My ‘beauty’ gauge kicked in quickly, and I started feeling the annoyance and sadness when I see buildings, walls and boxcars covered with tags, names and images that are mysterious to me in their meaning.
The same ‘shift’ can apply to our perception of the natural world and its abundance of gifts --which are sometimes veiled by destruction and mistreatment. A friend has created a way for all of us to participate in seeing the familiar, and especially that which has been mistreated, in new ways - Radical Joy for Hard Times (www.radicaljoyforhardtimes.org). As the group’s founder, Trebbe Johnson, writes, “When we open our eyes and our hearts to places that seem, at first, ugly or depressing, we are often startled by small instances of beauty or by the ways that even a damaged place continues to thrive.”
What Can You Do?
- Learn more about Radical Joy for Hard Times. -- www.radicaljoyforhardtimes.org/global-earth-exchange/.
- Experiment and change your lens. Think - “Where’s the beauty?” rather than “How ugly or disfacing!”
- Make something beautiful. Be creative! I sometimes take the mess on my counter and a make a sculpture. It relieves my anger and feeds my creativity.
- Explore Joanna Macy, www.JoannaMacy.net; and, "The Work that Reconnects” www.WorkThatReconnects.org