On June's Theme of Beauty

May 23, 2019
  • Rev. Abhi Janamanchi

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said of beauty: “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.”

We miss so much of the beauty that emanates from the people, places, and things among and around us.  We just don’t see it.

“Looking for and enjoying beauty is a way to nourish the soul,” observes modern mystic Matthew Fox.  “The universe is in the habit of making beauty.  There are flowers and songs, snowflakes and smiles, acts of great courage, laughter between friends, a job well done, the smell of fresh-baked bread.  Beauty is everywhere."

Culturally, beauty is one of those commodified values.  Our minds have been conditioned to think of physical attributes – flawless faces, glowing skin, and perfect bodies – when it comes to beauty.  We culturally conflate appearance with character. 

But beauty, as the poet John O’Donohue says, “is about more rounded, substantial becoming.”

John O’Donohue was poetic about the possibility of creating and nurturing our own inner landscapes of beauty, to keep us vital and alive in the midst of terrible devastation and dangerous surroundings and experiences.  He gave expression to the connection beauty and those edges of life, “thresholds,” where the fullness of reality becomes stark and clear:

“Beauty (in that sense) is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

Beauty in all its nuance is the moment to moment reality of our everyday lives.  It is that in the presence of which we come awake, we feel more alive.  It is the faces of those that we love, the beautiful landscapes that we know, the acts of loving kindness that have been done to us in “bleak unsheltered times.”  Beauty is in the creation and experience of music, poetry, and art.  It is all those unknown and unheralded people who resist and rise up against frontiers of awful situations and want and impoverishments of body and soul, and somehow manage to offer gifts of generosity and creativity and possibility. 

Beauty can be found and created in the midst of tragedy, travail, and travesty as well.  Elaine Scarry in her book On Beauty and Being Just opines that “when beauty opens our hearts, our capacity to care for what is just and true enlarges.”

May you drink deep of the shining and ephemeral glories that surround you.  May you drink deep of the grace notes that accompany your experiences of the sublime and the mundane.  And may beauty fill your senses and radiate in your life!

Keep Shining,