Ah, Beauty! 1


The Beloved Community: Here and Now

Last night a group of us were gathered at the Antioch Institute discussing the Beloved Community.

Sunset in Muscat, Oman

Sunset in Muscat

Our goal was to think about how and where we see the Beloved Community here and now. So, we posed the questions, “What are some of the key characteristics of Beloved Community? What are some visible signs that we are in the presence of Beloved Community?” The group led itself in an energetic conversation, reaching into their own this-life experience:

“It’s humanity.”

“When someone says, ‘I see you.’”

“There’s Hope in the Beloved Community.”

“Equity.”

And on and on. Oh, but we need more exploratory, deepening conversations like this one!

One answer surprised me. A simple, three-letter word: “Art.”

“Huh?” I asked. “Art is how we know the Beloved Community?”

“Yes,” came back the easy-as-breath answer. “Beloved Community can’t help but express itself in art.”

Returning to (my) WHY

In my last post here, I talked about my own WHY — Freedom, Transformation, and what I called “surprising connections.” Last night the group taught me, brought to me as gift, what is perhaps my deepest WHY.

Sunset in Arizona

Sunset in Arizona

Beauty — the root of my WHY.

I don’t talk about it much …, because I don’t quite know how to. I’m certainly no aesthetician. What is beauty? Well, like the Supreme Court says about you know what … “I know it when I see it.” I think I might assert that Beauty is not talk-about-able. Beauty captures us, enfolds us, surprises us. Most important, Beauty interrupts us.

You know how it is … you’re talking with a friend, outside by your car. You look up and see the sunset—no, you are arrested by the sunset, by the glory of the colors, the breadth of the beauty. You’re surprised by the sunset … it interrupts the conversation. You touch your friend on the shoulder, turn her around toward the western sky and say, “Oh, look! Look!” And . . . Silence. It happens in a flash, a quickened moment. You ooh. You aah. You go back to your conversation.

An Unexpected Transformation

Beauty interrupts.

Sunset in El Calafate (Patagonia, Argentina)

Sunset in El Calafate (Patagonia, Argentina)

And it is, I contend, in that interruption that an as-yet-unimagined Freedom becomes possible. Beauty transforms.

But here’s the thing (at least one of the things): The transformation brought by an encounter with Beauty—in nature, in another’s art, in one’s own labor of art—that transformation can’t be stated beforehand. We can’t capture Beauty in a “Statement of Outcomes” or measure it by pre-determined rubrics.

Even with the best intentions, no one can articulate with any confidence or clarity what transformation Beauty will bring. From what? — To what? That’s the basic formula for articulating the Transformation you want to see, the change you’re hoping to bring about. From what? — To what? In retrospect, maybe we can articulate that Beauty has Transformed us — from A to B. But before the encounter with Beauty? … We have no idea.

Beauty interrupts us. The Transformation rendered within and among us by Lady Beauty is a Transformation we didn’t even know we wanted. We didn’t know we needed or wanted to come “out of” that place. We didn’t know we wanted to be in this new place. We didn’t even know those two places existed. There was—and could be—no prior knowledge of the From what? or the To what?, not when Beauty is the agent of change.

Beauty’s Power

Beauty has the power to bring about a Transformation that has no name but “Ah!”

Lebh Shomea, South Texas

Lebh Shomea, South Texas

Beauty offers us a Freedom from chains we didn’t even know were binding us.

Beauty holds and hallows the center of our unspoken Hope, bursting upon us even in our darkest despair. “Aha! Aha!” we shout aloud.

We live in dark and difficult times right now. The whole world has gone to madness, it seems. We talk about the desperate craziness of these days. We explain. We protest. We describe. We analyze. We organize. We Facebook. And, to many of us, there seems no way out of the death-trap that we and others have built for us. Hopelessness, anger, despair, sick absurdity.

And Beauty, so often ignored, unseen, by us. For we are in too great a hurry for the likes of Beauty. Beauty, if we turn to her, will slow us down, make us stop and listen, see, and move in rhythms of grace and fury and startlement. Beauty arrests our compulsion to explain, to cogitate, to describe, to analyze, to give rationales and outlines and sound-bites of wisdom. Beauty grants us, instead, flashes of entry into the depths and heights and breadths of brilliance and vision and possibility and new creation. Beauty bequeaths us words like “maybe” and “perhaps” and “Yes” and “I hope.” Beauty gives us breath.

Ultimately, of course, Beauty is itself. And isn’t that what we all want to be? Ourselves? Our beautiful, true selves?

Where do you experience Beauty today? Have you greeted your Beauty today?

The Beloved Community: “Ah, Beauty!”

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