What does beauty mean to you? What is it exactly?
Is beauty only a mirage–a fleeting visible image of the superficial, like an illusion? Is what we call beautiful only a shallow temporary experience of what pleases our physical senses? Or is what is truly beautiful a gift to our infinite being, something we visit that imprints indelibly on our soul, our character, making it richer and more expansive? A song that uplifts, a smile that enlightens, a hand reaching out to gently reassure us in encouragement and love, a shared spontaneous experience that makes us bust out laughing, a new born baby, a flock of birds swirling in graceful shapes against a sunlit blue sky–is beauty that indescribable breathtaking moment that makes us feel grateful for being alive? Isn’t that beauty? Is it an experience of a incredible moment, or an interaction that surprisingly arises in our mundane path, or something amazing we feel within the confines of a personal relationship that goes mysteriously far deeper than just a pretty dress on a fashion model, or a gilded framed peaceful landscape that matches our couch on our living room wall?
What is your idea of beauty?
Well, this is mine.
Beauty is like the picture above and what is behind the picture above–the story of what it is expresses or invokes the experience of beauty in what we see and what it all means, even when what it means is ineffable. In that deeper sense of what it means to me, there is something more to the experience than a 2-dimensional photograph.
The day I took this photograph, I was out hiking in the woods by a river and I stopped to watch several monarch butterflies at play. Sitting on purple iron weed in Autumn time, under a pristine blue sky next to a rolling river, I was entranced by a pair of perfect vibrant delicate orange and black wings that fluttered and flitted from place to place. It gave me a great deal of joy to watch this butterfly dance from flower to flower. My little butterfly friend even allowed me to touch it, and it sipped water off my fingertips.
But here’s the hard truth in comparison to this fleeting ephemeral image.
What is truly beautiful in this world we live in, like this monarch butterfly, is in real danger of going extinct. Just like the climate change has drastically affected the yearly monarch migration detrimentally, and heavy use of pesticides that have killed off vast numbers of these North American butterflies, potentially weakening future generations and their ability to thrive, there is a huge probability that to behold a monarch playing among the iron weed may indeed become a very rare sight. Once something is gone, there’s no bringing it back.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we, as human beings, are directly complicit and completely involved with the destruction of all the beauty on our planet. That is a sad and unpleasant fact. One we need to own up to and change. And I will not be so self-righteous as not to count myself in that lump of humanity. No one gets a pass. It is everyone’s responsibility, not just our “leaders”–spiritual, environmental, political or otherwise.
Just by going along with the way we do things in the modern age, we cause destruction to the planet and to each other. And yes, I love our modern conveniences, but not every convenience is necessary. Not every popular viewpoint or interior thought that comes to us with ease is beneficial. We can change the way we do things, as well the way we think–which is where what we say and do flows forth from–in a way that will have less harmful impact and more direct good. And we must think beyond ourselves. Selfishness, pettiness, greed, hatred and fear is the enemy at our gates. And we must beat it back interiorly within our own person. We must as a whole think of life on earth as interdependent, because it is actually and factually interdependent.
We breath because trees exists. Simply stated, trees exist because we and other animals exhale out what they need to live. But they can’t live if we chop them all down. And also, we can’t live if we chop them all down. The same holds true for the ocean. The ocean is our primary source of oxygen, but we are quickly killing off that symbiotic relationship too. When one part is out of balance, there is a cascade failure that causes catastrophic disaster. It’s like the process of organ failure in the human body. Each organ shuts down because each organ is dependent of the other organs to get what is needed to continue living. If our planet was a patient, it might already be in the ICU.
Humanity was never meant to be a plague on the earth. And the best of what humanity means in its highest idea would not be celebrating the way we treat each other either. I say that because there is so much violence and hostility in our current world, and, in particular, in America. What is wrong with us? Mob mentality is not higher thinking. It’s toxic death to everything beautiful and glorious about what we are as human beings. Celebrate only what should be celebrated–goodness, compassion, wisdom and brilliant potential. Our habits of hate only cause harm, because hate begets hate. And love begets love. What do you want? Love or hate? Heaven or hell? And we all go there together, so chose wisely.
Because of our ability to reason, we were meant to be good custodians, caretakers and peacemakers, who ensure the positive cultivation and continuation of the indwelling natural abundance found within this miraculous planet of ours. But we aren’t doing that right now, are we?
Greed kills all. Hatred only causes destruction.
Of course, it is completely possible with a little extra consideration to educate one’s self so that we are individually able to make wiser, more comprehensive decisions on how to make better choices. And there is no excuse for not becoming a better person. Anyone can be compassionate if they want to be. It just takes effort. Becoming kinder wiser people not only makes our own life better, it makes life better for everyone.
You want a better world, be a better person.
Many people chose to live that way right now. And all of us have that capacity. I’d like to think we all care enough to be that person who makes a difference for good. But just how much do we really care about that? Is it far easier to sit and blame others, while placing all our responsibilities onto some political party, leader, employer or church affiliation? It might seem easier to go with the flow, stay silent, grumble and complain, spew hatred, incite violence, point fingers, but the end result is that things only get worse for everyone. No one else will do the work for us. We are either all in this thing called life to uplift, cultivate and protect the beauty in our glorious existence; or all that is inspiring and good gets eradicated systematically because of our own ignorance and apathy.
Very few things go extinct without our direct involvement with the destructive process. And the essential point I’m alluding to is that our involvement is not limited to the extinction of our splendid wonders of the world, our immaculate wildernesses really no longer exists in an untouched pristine manner. The wildernesses are already dying and so are the animals that live in them. Our oceans are full of garbage, spilt crude oil and radiation. Sea life is choking to death on our old cracked sippy cups, plastic forks and grocery bags.
And yes, this destruction of our beautiful environment is symbolic of our concern for life and each other. We are also directly involved with the denegration and destruction of our fellow human beings. Stepping on someone else’s back to feel superior or to take whatever we want is not acceptable behavior. Some of us do this intentionally–fully aware–driven by ignorance, hatred, anger, greed, and the hunger for power. And many of us do this each time we stay silent when we see injustice. Injustice is everyone’s problem. When irritable or angry, it is not our inalienable right to shove hatefulness and abuse at another person–despite what you may think. We become complicit when we don’t want to get involved with the struggle to uphold human rights and mutual respect for all.
Within our humanity, our divinity is waiting to be seen and acknowledged. Unfortunately, It doesn’t appear that many people think it’s important to make an effort presently. If we did, there would be no hatred, bigotry, inequality, starvation and war. Why are we allowing big industry to ruin our water systems and farm in ways that are toxic? Why do we eat that toxic food, when it sustains a greater problem? And don’t say because it cost less. Almost everyone in American has a big screen TV and a smart phone. If we wanted to spend money on more important things like healthy sustainable food sources, we would. But we just want our shiny stuff, don’t we. Why do we allow the deforestation of what’s left of our precious wildernesses? And why is there a garbage pile the size of Texas floating in our oceans?
Do we not care whether there is oxygen to breath? Do we not care about our children’s children?
We all have immense potential for good, regardless of our personal weaknesses or imperfections. The glorious state of human perfection is not possible because we have this crazy idea that perfection is what it is not. Perfect is not looking perfect. Perfect is not being unrealistically happy all the time by focusing only on external material things. Perfect does not equal wealthy, materially successful and powerful. Perfect is not the ability to do everything we do precisely in the correct way, without missing a beat. Perfect is not keeping your house immaculately clean. Perfect is not pretending you are superior to anyone else.
There is no such thing as human perfection. Our beauty is not judged by that ridiculous standard, like a beauty queen with a certain figure and a certain smile and perfectly straight teeth. The idea is absurd.
Beauty is far greater than restrictive ideas.
There is only a divine mystical perfection shrouded discretely behind the chaos of our unique experience as we think it is on the planet earth. The comprehensive perfection I speak of is that beyond our limited understanding, which is only glimpsed in the beauty of how all life is woven interdependently into seamlessness.
Humanity can kill or allow that beauty to be killed easily if we don’t all wake up.
Nothing is random. Everything that arises in our lives is a result of cause and effect. We make choices, even when we refuse to make a choice. Refusing to make a choice is in fact a choice. And as I said, all life on the planet is interdependent. And it requires positive participation to keep that interdependence from taking us down the proverbial toilet. There is no us and them–no one to blame. There is only personal responsibility.
In our imperfect individual lives, we all are immensely beautiful in our own messy paradoxical existence. It is within the experience of our faults, weakness and imperfections that we are able to find mercy for others. But we have to seek truth. And we have to want to become merciful. Mercy doesn’t come automatically. Compassion is something we must work on developing. Not everything is warm and fuzzy.
Mercy is beautiful. Compassion is beautiful. Love is always beautiful. Wisdom is supremely beautiful. Nurture those virtues. Do not distain them or ignore them into oblivion.
With that said, yes, it is entirely possible to snuff out the beauty that gives life joy. It is also possible to repress or oppress all that is splendid, compassionate and awe-inspiring to the degree that we all will suffer such great atrocities and planetary disasters that our joy will only return on the wings of future generations, if we give them a planet to live on.
Do we allow beauty to be destroyed? Do we actively participate in destroying everything that is beautiful in the world?
That is a choice we all must make.
The choice to uphold beauty can be in the simplicity of a smile. It is in loving instead of hating. It is being accountable for what we think, say and do. What is our intention? Do we actually want to harm others? And if so, why would we ever think that way? We must learn to work things out compassionately and wisely by listening and learning from each other. There are no easy answers, but if we value what is truly beautiful we have a personal responsibility. If we treasure loving family, healthy relationships, a livable planet where our children can exist without chronic impending catastrophe or unilateral despair, the majestic wildernesses, clean water, land that grows food, the eagle soaring, honey bees, the great blue ocean, the air we breath, the ability to have freedom on this earth to live in peace, monarch butterflies flitting on wildflowers–then we must think, speak and act accordingly.
Give beauty a chance to thrive. It’s specifically up to you.