The Way Of Beauty

You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but at the age of eight I was literally starving. I ate grass to fill my stomach and sat by a mailbox on the edge of the property we inhabited, watching cars go by.

Even at the time of my life something good – beauty – filled my eyes and heart, not with what I wanted or needed in the short term, but with what was awe-inspiring to me – the sky, the changes of the earth and the plants and animals with the seasons. These were things I could enjoy even though I couldn’t always have food or be part of a social network. Also, the earth and sky humbled me. They were greater, and they invited me to partake of them with my whole life.

Here was beauty – not just beauty to me. Whether or not I saw it, it endured and reached out to me. On top of this – wonder of wonders – I could touch this beauty, indeed, I was invited to do so. As I’ve grown older it is primarily this invitation which has matured in me.

As a boy of twelve when I first started working in the cabinetmaker’s shop, what we touched was material. It had a hardness and a smell, but it was represented to me as something that was inert and needed to be shaped and finished. It was the resource for products the marketplace demanded and my boss – the cabinetmaker – conceptualized and manufactured. My involvement was to perform the little jobs given me and clean up the mess when we were done. I never connected this wood with the woods. This stuff came from a lumber yard.

Gradually, I began to see the connection again. I walked around in the woods and slowly saw that these beautiful leafy things could give and receive. They were not just materials for me. They became living beings donating texture, form and color to take their beauty into the next step. As I’ve seen beauty in them, they’ve seen beauty in me and helped and invited me to realize it.

It sounds funny to say, but I have learned what I only sensed as a boy: beauty is alive and giving. I am thankful that I have not left this life ignorant of this fact.