My husband loves the tiny bees that specialize in working the smallest of blossoms. He can stand at his garden and watch them with a still intensity that reveals this is where he relaxes. The garden is where he finds the diverse abundant beauty of creation and catches a glimpse of God’s imagination and creative joy. For me, it is when I fish. There’s a moment during the time while standing waste deep in saltwater, when the immense nature of the sky and the forever line of the ocean fall away. In that quiet moment, the unknown quality of being surrounded by two realms in which I cannot live or freely move (ocean and sky), makes me know that even given all that, I belong.
One of the questions I had been asking over the past year as part of research for another writing project I am doing is "Why is beauty a virtue?" I have read pieces that discussed "What is beauty?" which mostly centered on discerning "What is true beauty?" But the question of beauty, of how one knows it, and why it resonates and what it reveals, did not indicate why for me, beauty was a virtue in and of itself. To me, it remained an attribute, a taste, subject to the relative judgment of the observer, until yesterday.
It was a muggy summer morning and I had turned on the classic rock station to help jump start the kitchen routine. "Hotel California" came on and I immediately was transported back to sticky southeast Texas mornings at the beach with buttery yellow cheese grits, orange juice and a side of black edged bacon of my childhood. I supposed that I was feeling sentimental and was about to change the station if only not to be reminded of what I wouldn’t be experiencing this summer, when my daughter pointed outside. A rabbit had made our backyard his home and specifically, the space under our deck. The bunny had hopped out at the first lines of the song and now was standing on its haunches with its ears opened wide towards the musical riffs of Glenn Fry, Don Henley and Joe Walsh.
Between my daughter and the musically attuned critter, I was forced to allow myself to remember all the things I loved that weren’t available to me, family and places lost to time and distance. We watched in silence as the creature stayed for the entirety of the song and then hopped off to find breakfast when the announcer came on to give the morning news. My daughter speculated that the rabbit must have wondered, "What created that wonderful noise for a time? Why?" Then she said he must have gone off to share his experience with all the other bunnies out there so they’d know such things existed. And I had to marvel, here I’d been thrashing and struggling with this virtue of beauty and my child already knew.
Why is beauty a virtue? Because it reveals thought and love and care and attention to detail and above all, has no apparent value, only intrinsic value. There is no practical use to all the colors and diversity of everything that our God has made, only love explains the necessity of stars and oceans that seem to go on forever and fish that have spots of black and yellow and yet each have a pattern all their own and flowers that require a specific type of tiny bee to pollinate. God loves us to all excess, and thus paints everything from chains of our DNA to the farthest galaxy we can dare to see through our invented technology that mirrors His far seeing eyes, that we might marvel at all the unnecessary beauty and thought and attention to detail. But He in His wisdom, doesn’t make them permanent because then we wouldn’t appreciate them for what they are. A rabbit that is always there, we would not stop to observe. Hotel California would be an awful place to be stuck forever, but it’s good to hear on the radio once and a while. Be still and know I am there. Beauty invites us to be still and know.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti