Surprised By Beauty

Our lengthy January thaw continues. It is a relief to be warm, to catch a glimpse of sun, and to walk safely, if carefully, across parking lots.

Speaking of thaws, yesterday I was reminded that every now and then beauty intrudes, catching our attention in the most mundane of locations. We were grocery shopping when, as we wandered through the local super market, still not picking up everything we needed, or even what was on the list held securely in my pocket, I became aware that in the moment those ridiculously inane rows of shelving were heartrendingly beautiful, and that sometimes the world is almost unendurably precious.

Today I wonder how do mind and heart align to give us such unanticipated offerings? How often, in the moment, do we transcend our society’s deep patterning and realize life is a mystery and a gift? How do these opportunities to know that everything is alive, conscious, and sacred, perhaps even that can of soup that beckons from the third shelf from the floor, come about?

Growing up Pentecostal and a polio survivor, I found myself experiencing life as endless striving for salvation in both the spiritual and mundane worlds. Still, every so often, in moments of epiphany and grace, I became aware that everything is sacred and there is nothing to be gained from one’s endless laboring, that grace is already, always present.

Later on I discovered the mystics, Christian, Native, and otherwise, who insisted that everything is just as it needs to be, that all is awake, and that the only real tasks are to love and to “stop the world created by our distracted minds”  so we see the breathtaking beauty of the universe.

How different this is from the late capitalism’s universe devoid of awakening or meaning! What, I wonder, would Calvin and his ilk have made of all that?


20 thoughts on “Surprised By Beauty

  1. It seems that we are so much more likely to hear and accept the truth that we are sinners and have such a hard time accepting that we are forgiven.

  2. Michael:
    This was an unexpected insight.
    I spent too many professional years encouraging shoppers to buy one thing over the other. And It does appear true that consumerism will be our undoing as a civilization. But for the time being, to have such abundance is worthwhile noticing. Even better to share the basic needs as we can. What a time and place we live.

  3. Practicing to be in the present moment is like cleaning the windshield from all the slush and mud of distraction so that you can clearly see the beauty, the grace, the abundance and un-problematic nature of the world as it is, already and always.

  4. Michael, I see better, now, why your writing resonates with me at times, to a greater degree than I might have expected. “Growing up Pentecostal… I found myself experiencing life as endless striving for salvation in both the spiritual and mundane worlds.” There was no lasting peace to be found here in the “world,” always a yearning for a better place and delaying of a full restoration of relationship. After decades of wallowing and wondering, the chains have slipped off and I have come home. I like it here. We are blessed.

    Thank you for your sharing.

    1. Rich, I am still finding my way home. Sometimes, for a moment, like in the store, I am home and all is well. I try to limit the striving and focus on the being. This remains a work in progress.

  5. ‘Consider the lilies ……they toil not….’ I have considered that for decades and have been truly blessed by doing so. We cannot see the true beauty of the world until we cease to take credit. Wonderful post Michael.

  6. What a wonderful post Michael.It reminded me very much of some of W H Murray’s writings on beauty(he was a mountaineer/explorer) and how our recognition of it in the deepest sense – often fleeting – has great lessons to teach us ; of the fact, as Murray believed ‘that the world was full of divine splendour which must be sought within oneself before it might be found without…. that our task was to see and know.’

    1. Thank you! And yes, I too believe the world is full of divine splendor and great opportunities to know oneself. The task does seem to be to be come open to the mystery and grace. Not easy, eh?

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