Friday, February 7, 2014

Beauty

Sunrise Sunday Morning in Sedona.
Back in High School, I spent a lot of time reading and writing poems--some of that is due to the fact that I was the poster child for teenage angst, and some of it due to my AP English classes.  Amazingly, the only snippet I remember of all that poetry is these lines from Keat's poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn:
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all             
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
 Even in High School, I had a hard time thinking that the truth of homelessness, world hunger or poverty was beautiful.  The seedy, shady, and stark truths of living here on earth just don't seem very beautiful, but Keats seems to believe this is true if we take his lines at face value.  At the same time, there is something intuitive about the beautiful that points us to something beyond ourselves.

Some trees along the race course in Sedona
It is why certain vistas in nature take our breath away, and why most of us look at great buildings, pieces of art, and listen to certain songs in awe-filled contemplation.   It is why we love to look at Gothic Churches and their stained glass windows, regardless of how you feel about the Midieval politics behind the building of them.  The majesty of good art turns us away from navel gazing to the transcendent, the Divine.

Another Sunrise picture from Sedona
And that is what I have the hardest time with when it comes to our society's construction of beauty.  By those standards, I am probably a 6 or a 7 on a scale of 1-10 because I am overweight and on the downward side of 35.  I'm not a nubile young thing anymore, and because of that, I have crow's feet, grey hair, and less tolerance of suffering for the sake of fashion.  By those standards, I will never be as beautiful/pretty as I was when I was in my 20s unless I choose to wear make-up, wear revealing clothing, and possibly go under some plastic surgeon's knife.  On top of that, I burn easily and don't always remember to wear sunscreen on my hikes and runs--because of my sunglasses, I have an almost perpetual raccoon tan on my face!  It doesn't really bother me, but I know that it adds nothing to my ability to be photogenic.  It also means that I will likely never be successful at online dating--it is entirely geared toward visual beauty/attractiveness.  (I'm not talking about taking care of yourself, or trying to look your best--that is a matter of respecting yourself, not about beauty.  I'm not advocating wearing sweats to work or failing to brush your teeth--I am just saying that there are some major flaws in our society's construction of what is and isn't beatiful.)

Unlike this Lorikeet at the Ostrich farm, most of us aren't born with such pretty plumage!

I'd rather have the kind of beauty that comes from within--the kind that shines through because of who you are, not what you look like or what you wear.  I had a roommate in college like that.  She positively glowed because of her relationship with God and the beauty of her spirit.  And, as long as I continue to strive in that direction, where I am right now is the ugliest I will ever be. With this kind of beauty, all of us have the potential to be a solid 10! This kind of beauty is much harder to achieve, though, as it requires being painfully honest with ourselves about our flaws--our personal pettiness and habitual sins--and opening ourselves up to letting God help us build the kind of virtues that overcome those flaws.

Some sort of flower on one of the trails around Sedona.  
This kind of inward beauty also means that I become like a beautiful work of art or a gorgeous vista in nature--I become someone who points to the transcendent, the Divine.  I don't know about you, but that is a goal worth striving toward.  May we all reflect the Truth (John 14:6) with our beauty.