My occasion for writing tonight largely centers on the continued need to be productive; it also includes the need for something to do while I wait for time to drag on just a bit longer, because I’m not really hungry yet and a few hours or so will probably put my numbers closer to where they should be, anyway.
Mostly, I’m writing this to entertain (and maybe expand) a topic that my brother queried me about last night. I gave him the best answers I could, considering my psychological and spiritual state. At the same time, in the past I’ve spent an entire semester on a contemplative pilgrimage concerning this very topic. Indeed, I think I have been considering it further even after the course ended. It has become a sort of theme in my life. Here is our conversation, quoted in dialogue from the text messages we sent:
“Question: Is beauty important to God?”
“Uhm…there’s an honors course for that.”
“Okay… Let’s ask this another way: Is beauty subjective?”
“To humans, yes. To God, no.”
“So how do humans emotionally connect with something that they don’t see as beautiful but that God does?”
“We’re given glimpses, I think. Paradoxes are small mysteries that are good examples.”
“How do you emotionally connect with a paradox?”
“You don’t connect, per se. You experience it, and usually only afterwards identify it as such. The ugly is often most readily identified, while our eyes take longer to “develop” the hues of beauty–although its colors have been there all along.”
That concluded our conversation for the time being, but having the topic called to mind again, I’ve been considering it for much of the day–this idea of Beauty, of what we see compared to what God sees, of what is beautiful and why it’s considered as such and why any of this matters anyway. I have come to the position (and this after several years’ consideration) that the beauty in our lives, in this world, is inexplicably intertwined with the ugly, the grit, the shit of the world. But first, a note on experiencing paradoxes.
The first example that comes to mind is perhaps the most simple for me to explain–my scars. While society puts a high price on unblemished skin of complexions fair and golden, I have come to treasure my dark flesh and its many lines. Some of my scars are hardly visible now, faint discolorations you can barely make out even when you squint. Others are more noticeable, and there are those that are glaring, unmistakable, obvious. They come from times, whether years or months or moments, when my only solution was to break open my own skin to let out what consumed me–whether the darkness of despair or the white-hot burning numbness of anxiety. Either way it gave me the chance to breathe, for however short or long a time until I felt I had to do it again.
Now, I don’t brag about my scars, but I do wear them proudly–not for the self-injury that caused them, but because of the healing that has occurred since. I look at my scars and I remember very dark, very terrible times in my life. The ugly is glaringly obvious. But, this many years, months, moments removed, I can also see the beauty that was there. Here were the angels who shouldered the burdens with me, holding me accountable when I disappeared to use the bathroom or skipped out on lunch entirely. Here was one who unlocked me from my isolation, in whom I could confide, and who paved the way for others who would come after–hoping to help, if I would let them. I was in a very dangerous place, but I was not alone–and when knives became pills became suicide attempts, I still was not alone.
The beauty is in the fact that I lived. The beauty is in the experience of others being God with skin on, holding me together when I would have otherwise ceased to exist. I didn’t see it that way at the time. I resented all who tried to help, hated that God would let people care so fucking much. I threw God’s love for me back in His face, claiming He was a masochist that only hurt the ones He loved so He could feel the pain. No, I didn’t want any of the help, any of the love, anything from life. I just wanted to die. Years later, I find myself compassionate towards the young, broken, hurting girl that I was. I empathize with her pain and her fear. Yet I am very much aware of how she was so greatly blessed during those times, and perhaps even now as well. I see her scars and I smile, I hug her, and I tell her I am proud of who she has become.
There is beauty intrinsic in who we are as created beings, in the world of nature and the universe at large. It is beautiful simply because it is. There is beauty in complexity, in numbers and series and figures, in minute details that come together to create a breath-taking whole. There is beauty in the thin spaces, in the weak spaces, where that which is stronger and surer shines through. There is beauty in brokenness and in surrender, in pain and healing, in gaiety and in grit.
We see with our own lenses, our ideas of how the world is and how we think it should be. We see the good and the bad, marking times of each. And perhaps, if we search diligently and wait patiently, our eyes will adjust as time goes by. We will see, further removed by moments or months or years, that Beauty was indeed there all along–and the longer we look, how much brighter Her colors will shine through the dark! Yet Beauty is with us still, ever behind and beside and before us, leading us home at last till She takes us unto Herself, where we shall dwell with Her forever.