Beauty is everywhere and evident to the naked eye, yet we seek out beauty through the strangest of methods. God has planted a luscious and verdant landscape of beauty for us to not only observe, but participate in. Yet we wait for advertisers—the “world”— to define what beauty is; what fashion runways reveal as the next greatest accessory to add to your wardrobe to make you feel beautiful.
We are creatures that seek out love and beauty, thinking that which is beautiful is lovable and that which is lovable is beautiful. Who defines which is what? For now, we continue to rely on the metrics provided by an ever-changing society.
I don’t want to quibble about what is and is not beautiful. I would rather focus on types of beauty and why understanding the variances of beauty can help us really look out into the world and see it for more than what we have assumed it to be. The world, our life—our very existence—all that makes up our reality, is an entire beauty experience. Perhaps we need to adjust our lens?
We begin the adjustment with Alexander Shaia’s Essential and Continuing Practices, as outlined in Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for a Radical Transformation. In the second of eight practices, Shaia urges readers to remain Open and Engage the Truths of Beauty. This begins by recognizing the experience of beauty on three levels: the appreciative, the collaborative, and the creative. “All are satisfying and important, and all will yield riches as four-path practices.” (379)
What is beautiful to you? Never mind what others may say about what you find beauty in. What can you look at right now that you can appreciate without thinking something about it needs more? We often will see something beautiful and instantly diminish it, saying things like, “If it only had this behind that…” or “I would consider it beautiful if it was slightly less blue.” Leave that desire to critique behind.
Appreciating beauty means that we see it for what it is, in all its glory and distinction, knowing that the slightest edit could remove all its sacredness.
Regularly opening ourselves up to the appreciation of beauty is invaluable…we should regularly seek out the places that open us to wonder and awe, to a feeling of the holy, being connected to All. (379)
Do you revere that which you observe as beautiful? Do you stand upon its sight with an overwhelming understanding of how much bigger the world truly is? What does that beautiful scene surrender to? How do you surrender to that beauty? Do you touch it? Smell it? Taste it? Do you get lost in it?
What does that beauty reveal to you or about you? That’s the bigger question. When I take notice of how remarkably beautiful a sight it is when a honeybee covers its legs in pollen after sifting through the sunflower head; I contemplate how much fun it would be to roll around in pollen all day, flying from flower to flower.What does that look like in my own life? Why does a bee collect pollen? To feed his colony. What do I do in my own life to feed my family? Sometimes, it feels like I fly from blossom to blossom collecting pollen to make honey. Then I go from child to child, nourishing each with not only food, but information.
The other thing about a honeybee is that it leaves remnants of pollen from the previous flower on the next flower. With each collection, he leaves behind a trace that he was on the previous flower. Similarly, we do that in every exchange and interaction we have with another. We interact with people to gather something for ourselves—whether it be attention, information, or a source of employment; yet when we leave and move on to the next person or experience, we leave traces of our previous exchange behind. We expand our experience as we fly from one blossom to another.
In order to expand our experience, we also use our imagination. We select an episode or a feeling from our lives or our work or our relationships—something from our larger world. We bring that truth into our encounter with beauty in any way that seems appropriate to us.
Appreciating beauty means that while we appreciate it, we apply what we appreciate to our life. Part of the path to Radical Transformation includes seeing everything as a gift. A gift we appreciate, not one we resent or regret. If we can be still and find beauty in the busyness and chaos of daily demands and competitive races of success, then the essential second step would be to find a way to use that beauty to integrate it with all aspects of our lives.
For example, is there a previous wound that needs healing that may have been triggered while observing and appreciating beauty? Perhaps the stillness and the awe of the beauty experience encourages you to set new goals? Maybe it sparks an idea that will help you with a project you have been working on. It could even present an answer to a question you asked months ago.
The important part is to take what rises from within and wrap it up with this particular beauty experience so that all areas of your life can be beautified. Simply put, stop and notice the beauty. Appreciate it. Combine it with something that you haven’t identified as beautiful and make it that.
This combination and method of integration will work as a necessary tool for understanding how the experience of beauty is also collaborative.