We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” - Mary Oliver
Is writing or reading about Beauty trivial in the light of what our society is experiencing right now?
How can we hold Beauty in our hearts when there is rage, justifiable rage spilling out from decades and decades of sustained abuse, discrimination and prejudice, literally onto our streets and digitally into our living rooms?
Our heads, hearts, ears and eyes are filled to the brim with scenes of looting, tear gassing of peaceful protestors, angry words, shocking truths of what our society is built on…..a reckoning that feels true to the core.
The blank page has never felt so inaccessible to me as it does right now.
Writing about Beauty, specifically about the beauty of Italy in all its forms from food to landscape to traditions to art, has been the one theme that connected everything for me.
"When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go." Alexandra Stoddard
It was easier to share beautiful things when the virus caused us all to shelter in place, because “home” is where beauty can thrive personally for us through what comes out of the oven, what is grown in a garden, what we make by hand.
"Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul." Alice Walker
Whatever horrors the virus is visiting upon the citizens of this planet, it is also true that it has caused us all to slow, pause, reflect, absorb and notice the beauty that we might have been too busy to have observed before, even if it’s in our own backyards. It’s not a surprise that bird watching has soared during the past three months. Or that it’s impossible to find a package of dry yeast to bake with in the grocery stores.
"This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before." Maya Angelou
Yes, I found it very pleasurable to write about Beauty a month ago.
I have work to do. I am waking up to the fact there is so much I cannot know about what it is like to live each day as a Black American. It is not in my realm of experience, and I will never know. But I recognize it’s not helpful to use my voice as much as it is my mind, ears and heart right now. I may have an opinion and self belief like everyone else does, but it is not fully formed. Not really. So, I am reading: James Baldwin, Maya Angelou. “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo is on my list once I’m able to find a copy, since they seem to be sold out everywhere. I am watching films and documentaries including this weekend, the PBS documentary on Paul Williams, African American Architect to the Stars.
So much beauty out of so much suffering.
What I am not doing is giving much time to listening to the things that are divisive and hyped in the media.
“I can’t breathe.”
Isn’t it interesting the respiratory correlation between the corona virus and George Floyd’s murder? How do we breathe through all of this?
“Beauty and health are the chief sources of happiness.” Benjamin Disraeli
I believe Beauty is an important part of how we not only get through, but thrive – yes, thrive – despite everything.
And while it will be awhile before I will be able to travel or take people to Tuscany again, I am daydreaming about new ways of sharing its life-changing beauty with you. I hope to be able to write about that soon, but not today.
I leave you with several quotes about Beauty from writers, philosophers, wise men and women I have admired throughout history. I hope you will read these slowly and take the wisdom into your heart. Let it take root. Let us fill our heads, hearts, eyes and ears with Beauty – not to be in denial of what is happening – not to escape our personal responsibility to take action or increase our understanding – but to infuse those actions and our understanding with love, compassion and truth. Beauty will lead the way if we embrace Her.
“It’s lovely to know that the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.” Frank McCourt
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The roots of beauty are love and kindness, the fruits are meaning and purpose”. Maxime Lagacé
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa
“Kindness is like snow – It beautifies everything it covers.” Kahlil Gibran
“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with joy are goodness, beauty, and truth” Albert Einstein
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude”. Friedrich Nietzsche
“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” Dante Alighieri
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” Anne Frank
“The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth”. Lao Tzu
“You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul”. George Bernard Shaw
“The world is a depressing place if you look for depressing shit. The world is a beautiful place if you look for beautiful stuff.” Ed Latimore
“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.” Paramahansa Yogananda
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” Thich Nhat Hanh
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“The world is merciless, and it’s also very beautiful.” Hajime Isayama
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy”. Anne Frank
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty”. Joseph Addison
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Pierre Auguste Renoir