Beauty. They say it’s in the eye of the beholder. I think that’s true to an extent, but it seems to me that there are some things that are just objectively beautiful. I’m not talking about our cultural or societal standards of beauty. I’m talking about a child taking their first step. The hoot of an owl on a starry night. That first blossom after a long winter. The smell of your favorite meal as you walk through the door. The words I love you said at the bedside of one who is dying. As Victor Hugo put it, “To love beauty is to see light.”
At one of my recent workshops, we considered the question, What is beauty?
Is beauty flawlessness? Is it perfection? Is it what we see in glossy magazines? Is it what we find in museums or expensive boutiques? No, we decided. Beauty is more than that. True beauty invites us into the present moment and is linked to creativity and gratitude and joy. I would define beauty as whatever makes our souls sing.
In the words of Kahlil Gibran from On Beauty:
…beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
… a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
A while ago, I took a webinar on home funerals and green burials. I don’t remember who offered the class, but I do remember a story shared by the instructors who were experienced End-of-Life Doulas.
The story was of a woman who was dying of cancer. She wanted to be buried in the woods on her property and she wanted to make the shroud that would wrap her body when she was placed in the ground. In the last weeks of her life, she set about quilting a colorful tapestry. Her children admitted that they didn’t understand, at first. They questioned why she was using what little energy she had left on what, to them, seemed frivolous. When she grew too ill to finish, her friends gathered with laughter and stories and finished it for her. In her last days, the shroud covered her bed as friends and family members came to say good-bye. Even as she prepared to die, she glowed with a joy from within as everyone admired the shroud, knowing how much it meant to her and the love that had gone into making it.
Was the shroud flawless? Would it have appeared in a museum or fetched top dollar at a quilt show? No. The stitches were uneven as her strength diminished. The friends who helped her had varying skill levels. The seams were a little crooked. But it was beautiful. Could the fabric have gone to a more useful purpose? Perhaps. But it would never have found a more meaningful purpose.
This story stayed with me because of the courage to claim beauty in the midst of pain. I think beauty touches us most deeply when we glimpse it from our broken hearts.
At least that’s true for me.
There is a lot of darkness in the world. War. Illness. Violence. Injustice. There is death and isolation and disconnection. We don’t have to go looking for the darkness. It has a way of finding us. So go look for the beauty. See the light. Open yourself to those things that make your soul sing. The beauty may not always be evident at first glance, but the truth is we don’t have to look too far.
Again, in the words of Kahlin Gibran:
…beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror
I think we each have a beauty within us that the world invites us to share. Sharing the beauty of our souls, pouring ourselves out into the world, takes courage. How that looks is different for each of us…. and isn’t that the beautiful thing?
So why not follow our creativity, do what makes our souls sing, unleash the beauty within regardless of what anyone else will think. Why not create that scrapbook or quilt that bedspread or paint that landscape? It may not be “perfect” but who cares! It will be beautiful.
Beauty is essential to our spirit and a way to experience something greater than ourselves. Why not do that thing you’ve been putting off? Why not share that spark you thought you’d never share? Let your soul sing!
Life is too short
… and life is too heart-breaking
… and life is too beautiful not to live it.