Monday, January 16, 2012

Seek ye beauty

"To seek elegance rather than luxury" The 2nd line of William Ellery's poem.

I'm immediately reminded of the old SNL skit, "Do you like luxury?" with the great Will Ferrell:

So, if luxury equals expensive things (sumptuous, indulgent refinements), are elegant things in-expensive? Praytell. The definitions of "elegant" use words like "graceful, tasteful, refined, excellent, dignified." Sounds like luxury can be purchased, and elegance has to be earned. Or at least well-planned. High maintenance without looking like it. Sounds challenging. And quite impossible. Like my almost 40-year old south half looking remotely presentable in skinny jeans.

And I've lived long enough to know that we, humans, long to have elegance or luxury (clearly William hints that we all seek for something), which really must be beauty...but to seek an inner beauty rather than an outward one is what he's hinting at, I suspect. And people often confuse the two. Or at least way too many cliches exist about "inner beauty." Enough of them spouted by ugly people that it sounds like a weak excuse. Or at least an explanation. It smacks of bitterness.

I office in the Special Education hallway at my school. Whenever at my desk, I am within earshot of students who bark, drool, and fall madly on the floor. Most of them are quite obnoxious about it, and by "it" I just mean life. Existence. They live loud. Most of these students look distinctly unusual. Some of them smile. Some have listless expressions on their faces. Some moan loud "hellos" when I pass.

One recent day, a young woman from this population was pausing in the hallway in her wheelchair. Who knows why? I approached her from the opposite end of our long, shared corridor and a beam from the skylight poured directly down upon her face. She was, at that suspended moment, an angel. A beautiful creature. As if God took out his Highlighter and marked it right over her body; she was perfection. I was compelled to stare. And I've called her my "angel" ever since. Her beauty saved me that day. From something, I'm not sure what. Perhaps hopelessness, surely some kind of selfish despair.

We are all drawn to beauty, are we not? Beauty in nature, in models, in cars--those things with perfect symetry, with soft lines, matching or complimenting colors, --but "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is it not? We like it, we appreciate it, we marvel at it, we stare at it, we worship it, but we all disagree over its merits. Its true qualities. But it does offer a hope of some sort. A meaning to madness. An answer to chaos and disarray. Finally, something makes sense.

Then there's the idea that beauty may be truth, thanks to an old friend John Keats, "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' --that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."

Thanks, John. We are so confused about beauty today though, I'm afraid not many of us know what is actually beautiful or what is truthful.

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