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Commentaries and observations about the conflicting moral beliefs and psychological issues facing our culture.
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"AWAY WITH WORDS"
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9 September 2020
An Elder Ponders Beauty
We have all had moments of free-floating reverie - those brief, quiet, spontaneous, unexpected mind-spaces when our concentration meanders and we become as if in a trance.
This usually happens when we are doing routines which require nothing of us: brushing our teeth or leisurely watching a child at play or maybe taking a deep breath while we unpack groceries (or, in my case, idly petting my badly-spoiled cat, Pookie). This activity is so ordinary, so insignificant, so commonplace that we do it with absent-minded inattention.
But, unexpectedly, inexplicably, we are taken out of ourselves. Our mind drifts beyond the fleeting picadilloes of routine … and, in the next instant, we find ourselves mysteriously ushered to a level of interior tranquility, infused with (what I may call) a sense of ease and contemplation, an instance of calm insight in which our worries seem utterly unimportant, even alien, to the peace which now infuses us.
Then are we made aware of the underlying simplicity of our lives ….. and we are suddenly filled with a sense of awe and wonder,
- possessed by a measure of gratitude for the gift of life;
- awakened to simplicity and beauty all around us;
- free of cluttering distractions and draining anxiety;
- filled with a rare and reassuring peace.
Be Still … And Know
At such times, we are brought effortlessly to a place of stillness in heart and mind; immersed with astonishing clarity into awareness of how precious is the gift of time, and how blessed we are to receive this wholly unexpected glimpse into our life’s value.
Then do we recognize that our existence is not a series of fleeting irrelevancies but, rather, a gift freely given, a gift we surely did not earn by any merit of our own.
Then are we made aware of the fragility which underpins our days; made aware of the exquisite complexity of the world in which we live; made aware of the incomprehensible patterns in the created universe, of which we are part.
Then are we made aware of the Mystery of Goodness and Order and Benevolence which sustains our life, enriches us and showers us with so many gifts unearned – gifts such as:
- the gift of sight to behold creation’s marvels;
- the gift of speech, that we may express our love for our Beloved and give thanks for the kindnesses of the day;
- the gift of hearing, that we may listen to the breath of our Creator whispering to us through the leaves or rewarding us with the sound of children’s laughter;
- the gift of tasting ice cream and relishing the textures of endless delights;
- the gift of touching the face of our Beloved and the joy of being held in our Beloved’s enfolding embrace;
- the irreplaceable gift of our child’s hands in ours.
Then do our souls and hearts and minds and emotions silently meld and journey effortlessly into the realm of time transcendent, leaving behind the demands of our practical, make-work world, as the anxieties and pain which we may bear fade gently away.
Then, in this moment of surcease and wonderment, are we also made aware of Beauty all around us … and within us. We are drawn into an experience of inner peace and joy and solace, as we behold the presence of God’s inherent Beauty and His Goodness and Order and Benevolence which exist right in front of us, in the ordinary things of life all around us. We are immersed in the presence of Beauty, aware of the Order and Goodness and Benevolence of God … revealed to us in-and-through His Creation, which is everywhere around us – as is He.
Then are we made aware - and duly humbled to realize - that nothing in this life is irrelevant, not other human beings and certainly not ourselves; not the frustrations we face nor the countless array of life’s delights, nor the smallest sacrifice we make for others, nor the hesitant prayer we offer our Creator.
Then are we are made aware of life’s endless gifts … gifts we may ignore or deny or dismiss because we fail to see, fail to seek, fail to understand that to live is to be enfolded in God’s own Mystery. Mystery is clarity. Mystery is the revelation of His Benevolence, the language of His Goodness and Order … of His Personal Love for us.
The Stillness Of Time
Then, in this moment of blessed reverie, we also recognize that every second of our lives is a precious opportunity to embrace the astonishing Mystery of it all, to embrace our Creator whose Benevolence sustains us.
And (if only for these few transcendent moments) our hearts are touched by a sense of God’s Divine Beauty. We are given an acute awareness that Goodness and Benevolence and Order are truly everywhere around us, even when hidden from our vision.
And we become aware that - were we to behold God in all His Goodness and Benevolence and Order as they truly exist - we would be blinded by The Light.
And then we are moved by the presence of Beauty and Goodness and Order to a state of deep gratitude to God for our dependence; moved to grateful, abiding thanks simply to be alive.
The Divine Beauty which we may behold in heart and mind is not the beauty of visual coherence found in the decorous symmetry of fine art or impressive architecture. It is not the sonorous synchronicity of a Haydn concerto, nor does it captivate us with the relentless logic of a Bach toccata.
These forms of human beauty surely afford us revelations of goodness and order, since artistic excellence can be an avenue to moments of transcendence. But the touch of Divine Beauty of which I speak is an even more fundamental form of Beauty which does not depend on human creativity.
It is not of sensual origin; it is not sought nor granted merely to please the eye nor satisfy the palate. It does not involve our five senses, nor is it the fictive, piecemeal spirituality of the avid pantheist who deifies inanimate rocks and worships the odds-and-ends of Creation.
No, this form of Divine Beauty emanates from our Personal God. He is The Person who engages our heart and soul and gently exposes us to our utter dependence on Him as our Creator.
God’s Divine Beauty is a revelation which perforce moves us to awe and reverence and gratitude for the privilege of being alive. His Beauty is the first and final font of all that we call “beautiful.”
The power of such Beauty is beyond human art because it is not made by man or women. We discover Divine Beauty as it arises from our awareness of simply “being” alive. It is a revelation freely given, an insight, a gift of discerning grace by which Divine Beauty touches us; a gift for which we can claim no ownership; a gift by which our Creator upholds us and reassures us that we are loved and wanted, that our dignity as creatures is honored in the simple fact of our being.
The First Truth
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge that this benevolent “touch” of Divine Beauty is a deeply humbling experience. Why?
Because that “touch” grants us a certainty-of-soul about the simple grandeur of being alive. The “touch” of Divine Beauty deepens our comprehension of the role and primacy - the radical necessity - of Goodness and Order in our lives, and reminds us that our status as created beings is a gift of Benevolence beyond our own merit.
This revelation of Divine Beauty and Goodness and Order also reminds us that we are created beings, endowed with a profound (and, hopefully, loving) debt to our Creator. Thus, we are obligated by boundaries and restraints which are proper to our created nature. For some of us, this is a bothersome truth. But there’s more: we are also obliged to honor other people who share life with us. This truth can - for many who doubt and deny God’s primacy - be even more aggravating and confining.
Nonetheless, Benevolence - wishing others well - is the model we are to follow, the God-given model by which we are ourselves sustained.
Life’s Puzzling Essence
Let me propose an analogy to enlighten my point.
Our apprehension of Divine Beauty and Goodness and Order of which I speak is akin to our looking at a very large, intact jigsaw puzzle. We see its final pattern. We see its “aha.” We see its intended completion, its essential rationale, its complex patterns, its inherent beauty, its disjointed parts united by the finality of its internal order.
The puzzle’s final reveal gives us clear insight into its form and shape and purpose as a puzzle. We see the whole picture; we get it. Now the puzzle makes sense to us, even as its pieces frustrate our need for mastery, defy our intelligence and test our resolve.
Now, if you tell me to dis-assemble the puzzle into its many separate pieces (i.e., into life’s constituent parts, into days and nights, years and decades, joys and sorrows) and you tell me to connect each piece and complete the puzzle, I’ll need time and patience (yours and mine) to get there with you … just as we are now doing.
But as we struggle to see it through, we do have a sense of its fullness, a sense of its intended final form, of where it’s designed to go and what it’s supposed to look like. It does make sense to us, even though some of the pieces are confounding and frustrating as we work at it attentively.
Our Life Follows
And so it is with the touch of Divine Beauty and our relationship with our Creator as we work at life attentively … in Faith and Hope and the cost of Benevolence, rising time after time from losses great and small, trusting in God’s Goodness and Order to see us through.
We are given the gift of seeing the Big Picture. We see the point of our lives, the point of loving and giving ourselves to others, of frustration and pain and disappointment along the way, of bewilderment and loss, of successes and achievements which ease us along. Beyond each challenging piece of our puzzle, our life does indeed make sense to us -- and we know it.
We may doubt ourselves, but we need never doubt Divine Beauty Who truly is the Goodness and the Order we seek in life … Who faithfully sustains us in His unwavering Benevolence.
We now know the purpose and goal of life’s disjointed pieces, the end-point which rests beneath our frustrations. We know the value of solace, the necessity of trust and fidelity, the joy of love given-and-received. And once we realize that these pieces of life do indeed fit together, life’s Mystery and God’s Divine Beauty are - ever more clearly, ever more endearingly - benevolent gifts beyond measure.
The Mystery reveals to us the sure and certain hope, the encouragement to keep our intentions focused, our minds clear about our purpose, our hearts resistant to despair and our souls stronger than doubt.
It is this revelation of the ultimate meaning and desired end of our being, the revelation of Benevolence, which sets our lives aright especially with other people who share Creation with us.
Finally . . .
This is the message of Divine Beauty – the point of our Creator’s revelation to us. Goodness and Order (which are of the essence of Benevolent Love) await us, not only at some future date … but right now, every instant of our lives … if we will but answer His unending, munificent call.
And … for those who wonder where we begin, a humble “Yes” to these gifts of Benevolence and Goodness and Order - a generous ”Yes” to God’s Loving Mystery - is a very fine start.