Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I once took a two-and-a-half-day battery of tests whose object was to determine what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was about 35 at the time. The tests were set up to reveal not just what I wanted and hoped to do but also what I actually had the capacity to do.

I had half-expected that there might be some stunning, unimagined, off-the-wall, life-changing suggestion -- yes, you are cut out to move to Tahiti and dive for pearls in the company of four doting wives -- but there was no such shazzam revelation. Instead, the results merely collated and put in one place a file of what I already knew. It was very useful... to learn what I already knew.

Today, I was reading a Buddhist bulletin board I participate in and someone commented that what I had written was "beautiful." I went back to see what I had written and it struck me as OK, but "beautiful" seemed a bit much. Still, I was flattered.

Of all the gold stars I would like to take out of the petty cash of this life, beauty is probably top dog. Beauty, the battery of tests had informed me without ever defining what it meant, was very high on my list of important stuff. Not to be praised for it, but to enjoy it, to see it, to swim in it, to relish it, to be it without being it.

I suppose there must be a million Ph.D. theses out there somewhere dissecting and defining and appreciating the groves of beauty. Like jokes that receive an explanation, describing what it is that constitutes beauty is a fool's errand in the sense that it forever falls short of the swoon beyond swooning that beauty confers. It is utterly trusting, a me-without-me. It is to die for because it is a kind of death together with not just a willingness to die but also a longing for and consummation of that death. It is love beyond the poets. It leaves "ecstasy" and "bliss" and "love" gasping for air.

The Navajo (or is it the Hopi?) Indians have a saying, "All around me is beauty."

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart probably came closest to "beauty" when he addressed the matter of pornography and said (approximately), "I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it."

Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching ... imperative to experience and yet, in experience, beyond experience.

All gone.


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