Monday, June 25, 2012

Life Lesson Number 11: Seek Beauty

"Beauty isn’t just satisfaction.  You don’t just rest in it.  It's not just distress.  It's not just painful.  It’s a joyful pain.  It breaks your heart...  A joy, a wonder, and a distress, more deep than any other because here one touches truth.  Such emotions all beauty induce; an astonishment, a delicious wonderment, a longing, a love, a trembling that is all delight.  All perceive it, not all are stunned sharply by it.  Only those whom we call lovers ever are…" -From a lecture by Peter Kreeft about the mystery of beauty


The first time I went scuba diving in the ocean I was a teenager.  I was in Kauai on vacation and being the only certified diver in my family I went alone for a day of diving at a local hot spot.  My log book was pretty lean in open water.  Outside of some lake diving that had barely 12 inches of visibility and dives at the exhibits at the local zoo, I hadn't seen much else.  I loved my zoo dives, but I needed something more.  I was anxious to get into the water.  We geared up, and I was first in the water.  

As I descended, amongst strangers,  the sparse coral opened up on my right and we dropped onto a shelf about 25 feet down and it was like a curtain was lifted and suddenly, the rich blue waters revealed a whole world just 30 feet below the surface.  For almost 50 feet in all directions I could see everything with pristine clarity and the sea was teeming with life.  There were trumpet fish, dragon eels, green sea turtles, Honu, and a variety of other reef fish. The colors were vast and varied and the water was very much alive with movement and purpose.   I hesitated before moving forward, taking it all in, this beauty and majesty unfolding underneath the calm, unassuming waters above.  The glassy surface I'd just breached betrayed what would be found for those who would venture here.  I exhaled, the bubbles soft against my face, feeling almost a voyeur in the sweeping landscape.  I'd never seen anything like it.  The beauty literally overwhelmed me.  

Beauty is instantly recognizable.  Indescribable, but immediately felt in the heart... a tug, a warmth, a physical  reaction.  Beyond explanation, it just is.  We understand it immediately.  There is something familiar in the recognition and we know when we find it, when our eyes fall upon something we just know it is beautiful and we want to protect it, honor it, and keep it close.  We want to capture it somehow.  But part of the intrigue is how elusive beauty can be, it can't be contained.

This life offers us glimpses of this inexplicable miracle and mystery, but we are also meant to seek it out, and not let beauty just find us, or stumble upon it by accident.  Seek beauty, and not in just the extraordinary but in the every day.  Elevate the things that move you, that speak to your heart, the things that you don't just find beautiful but that beautify you in the process.  There is a grace and a truth in things we find beautiful.  And with a deliberate, peaceful heart we can carry those moments with us much longer and with stronger conviction than when they are first presented. 

I've been lucky to see beauty often in my life, and I always appreciate that familiar feeling that sweeps over me when I recognize it.  That beauty arrives or is discovered, overwhelms, and saturates my senses instantaneously and completely - captivating my soul in way I can't articulate but poets have often tried.  

Years later, I can still remember how I felt later that day I dove in the ocean.  I can feel myself sitting on the beach alone, my salty hair drying in the setting sun, my empty tank sitting next to me, watching the waves roll in one after the other, the the sun glittering on the surface like diamonds.  And I can still feel the beauty I'd seen that day in the quiet depths of the cove dancing through my veins.  It hasn't left...