Thursday, August 25, 2011

"all around me is beauty"

Not everyone is always steadfast or courageous enough to heed the Navajo (or was it Hopi?) encouragement, "All around me is beauty." That's a tall order even as the truth of it may create a wistful, wishful pinnacle in the mind or heart. There is so much to do, so many 'practical' chores that need attending to ... I may wish I had such a mind and heart, but, well, often I do not.

Still, even with all the failures and half-measures, I think it is a good idea to attend to our beauty, whatever it is. Maybe it's just a flood of ease, maybe it's a jaw-dropping sunset, maybe it's the places to which music may carry its listener ... there is no 'objective,' one-size-fits-all, beauty, but that doesn't mean there isn't beauty. And to neglect this aspect simply because "you can't eat a Rembrandt" or "Beethoven doesn't pay the rent" or "the corner office is where I want to be" ... well, it's deadening and sad.

Even the cave men depicted the news events of their day in delicious -- and perhaps beautiful -- ways. And there are the prancers and dancers when it comes to "beauty" -- people who trumpet their love beauty but really only love themselves.

Around here, the news is full of an impending hurricane moving up the East Coast. One report said flooding could be as bad as it was in 1938. A lumber yard about a quarter of a mile from where I live has a commemorative marker on its sidewalk wall -- this is how high the water was when the hurricane of 1938 hit. And the marker is well above my head.

Floods don't generally occur all at once. They sneak and lap and gain depth a bit at a time. Bit by bit they gain ascendancy over what defies their advance. Bit by bit ....

Bit by bit the merchants gain a foothold. Maybe in the mind. Maybe in the street. Who has time for beauty when times are tough? Sell the furniture, sell the heritage ... we can no longer afford beauty; we are the new lords of the land, these merchants. And worse than these lapping lords of the land, are the lappings of the mind, the merchants in all of us: "You can't eat Beethoven."

Yesterday, a friend sent me a news article about an Ohio congressman who, during an open meeting, had the cops confiscate recording devices (cameras, phones) of audience members. He didn't want some Youtube embarrassment cropping up, but his minions said it was for the audience's benefit. Open meetings may not seem to be exactly beautiful, but I would argue they are a thread in the tapestry that allows people to breathe freely. I would argue that this sort of event is a good example of the lapping, lapping, lapping ... the creeping advance of the merchant-mind...the kind of thing that diminishes beauty in pursuit of self-congratulation. Beauty does not congratulate itself. It has no motive: That's what makes it beautiful.

Whatever it is, I don't think beauty is self-congratulatory. It fills and informs and -- that's right -- you can't eat it or pay the rent with it, but without it, the world fills up with zombies ... dead men walking. And the real difficulty does not lie with the fact that others can turn the world into a merchandising Mecca, but with the fact that we ourselves can sell ourselves out, sell our blood for a bit of the latest heroin.

"All around me is beauty."

Consider the possibility.

1 comment:

  1. Over the last year I had been doing social work and giving a hand to a family’s business without thinking much about money and merchants, while the financial situation of the family declined. Earlier this year, as the money pot slowly ran out, the pressure at home arrived at a point where I felt an urge to get a job in a supermarket, restocking shelves, doing what some might call a “slave’s job” to help pay the family bills. When I picked that job, it felt as if, out of so many merchant’s slave jobs out there, this one didn’t feel as much like “selling my blood (or soul)”. After all, everyone needs to wash up, eat, wash clothes, clean the house, etc. despite the fact that a supermarket fulfils many more desires than those basic needs these day.

    Yesterday, I got a phone call and today went for an interview to work as a designer in a company that produces bottled and canned drinks. It’s another “slave’s job”, only this one is somewhat better paid, a plus since my current wage isn’t enough to cover my share of the expenses at home. On a wall of their staff entrance there are a few shelves exhibiting all the products they produce and sell; beer, soft drinks and water. Looking at the whole wall picture, it was somewhat saddening to see that water only takes up a tenth, even less, of the shelf space. It felt like a snapshot of how we’ve all become so blind and complacent about what we put in our mouths, never mind what we let out.

    I get the feeling I am selling my blood or soul by taking up a job with a company selling products I don’t endorse. Yes, I’ve had one or two beers over the last year, but a company of this size doesn’t survive (not to say profit) on rare occasion consumers. On the other hand, I get the feeling this job may well be the perfect tool to tackle some prejudices, preconceptions or truths I may have left in my mind. Only a few months ago I rejected, flat-out and somewhat emotionally, the idea of putting my best abilities at the service of a company whose high profits depends on people getting highly intoxicated with beer and soft drinks. Yesterday, and after the family needs (desires?), this reason alone felt like the second best reason to take it.

    Masters and slaves, merchants and looters, soft drinks and water…

    One man’s poison is another man’s cure, right?