existentialist cafe

life is sacred

Tag: beauty

The things that have helped me over the past year or so

This is a list of resources that have been an important part of my eudaimonia over the past year. I am excluding things that would not be available to most people – such as, for example, my friends. They are not in a particular order. Many of them were somewhat serendipitous. I will explain how I came by each of them so you can see for yourself!

They are vaguely in chronological order in terms of when I started paying attention to them.

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The constancy of Beauty

It seems to me that those things which appear to be beautiful to me are, in fact, beautiful. Is this surprising? Yes. Because I have thought something was true, only to find out that it was not true. I have thought that something was good, only to find out that it was not. But beauty does not seem to capable of lying. Now it is most definitely the case that something which did not seem to be beautiful then turned out to be beautiful.

I do not think we are drawn toward what is false, but we falsely think certain things are true when they are not. Likewise, I do not think that we are drawn toward what is bad, but we falsely thing that things are good when they are not. We are not drawn toward what is ugly – but can we falsely think that something is beautiful? If not, then is it possible that beauty is our most reliable guide?

There is no accident in beauty

There is no accident in beauty. No one, upon installing that glass window, expected someone sitting where I am sitting to see it suddenly light aflame in the golden setting sun. But there it is, radiance equal to any. Beauty is not a by-product. Beauty unlocks the true nature of that window. It lifts mundane things up into eternity.

the river in the tree

“The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle, and I hear today for the first the river in the tree.” ~emily dickinson

What a delight, to have one’s eyes opened, to see the pure form within ever-constant change. William Styron, reflecting on his mental illness, writes of a contralto passage from a Brahm’s rhapsody:

“This sound, which like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known.”

The fog thick as a blanket, one note like a shaft of sun, a comrade in white sent from heaven to minister to the sick, dying man, stranded on the battlefield of depression. There are weights that press against our chest for so long that we no longer notice they are there until they are suddenly lifted. When the ball and chain fall away, we may feel like dancing, but afraid that we do not know how. No wonder that for some time our shoulders may still droop, and our feet may still drag.

There are these things that call us back to life, and in so doing bequeath in us a new awareness of deep, abiding beauty. There is nothing like being grateful for the one bird singing outside our window, for the one child laughing, for the one note played piercingly high. There are these things that come uninvited to our darkened hearth, and bring their light and charm with them.

I could cry salty tears
Where have I been all these years
Little wow, tell me now-
How long has this been going on?

There were chills up my spine
And some thrills I can’t define
Listen sweet, I repeat-
How long has this been going on?

Oh, I feel that I could melt
Into heaven I’m hurled
I know how Colombus felt
finding another world.

Kiss me once, then once more
What a dunce I was before
What a break, for heaven’s sake!
How long has this been going on?