« Beauty »

It was one of those days... when it's a minute away from snowing... and there's this electricity in the air... you could almost hear it... and this bag was just dancing with me like a little kid begging me to play with it... for 15 minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things. And this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid... ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know, but it helps me remember. I need to remember. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it. My heart is just going to cave in.

I was watching American Beauty once again last week and felt compelled to write that down. I get verklempt during a number of parts of this movie. The dancing bag scene is just about as overwhelming for me as it was for Ricky in the movie. I find myself seeing things more like he does in the movie.

Beauty is all around. Yesterday it was in the way that my dog Okua toyed with a bee for several minutes before she went in for the kill. She is a beautiful dog that could maul a man if she needed to, but here she was, knocking around a helpless bee for a while, sort of like speaking softly and carrying a big stick. She is an animal though, and had to consummate that particular deal as anyone would expect, but it was a marvel to watch.

Or maybe I sit and marvel at my overgrown yards, front and back. We have no lawn mower, so cutting the yards is more a matter of chance. I noticed readily that the back yard has some real nasty weeds. But it took me far longer to see that the front had almost none. I noticed that while my head was watching the Okua/bee episode up close in my driveway.

Or I am entranced by how kitchen scraps can be put into a black container in my yard and months later, it emerges as life giving compost, replete with worms and other little creatures. Or maybe the grass poking up from between the concrete slab sections—nature will have her way no matter what.

Or a couple months ago, in my first class sesson in my humanities class, we saw a video of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, overgrown with vegetation and trees that never could have cared how much human labor went into building the temples and other monumental structures. Again, nature will always get the upper hand.

Or maybe it was yesterday morning when I found out one of the old timers associated with my church has his own website that his grandson put together, and the whole site is just radiating with positive vibes that emanate from the man. He is a 93 year old who was a baptist minister and apparently had some encounters or has done work with Dr. Martin Luther King. His moral grounding even drives him to carry a cardboard sign protesting this war we now fight.

Or maybe it was that tonight I found myself looking through a number of the over 1000 photos of my wedding, and just savoring the day, and the oft-recalled reception that people still talk about as being the best event the church has ever hosted, with the music, lights, and food, and all that other stuff. And of course, I got to see again the radiant woman I married that day, who keeps amazing me all the time. It was her finest hour thus far.

Or maybe it's listening to the late great Jeff Buckley's music that speaks to me from beyond the grave. We should marvel at recordings; they allow the dead to speak to us. They give otherwise overlooked souls of the creative genius class to change our lives in ways they couldn't while they walked the planet in the flesh.

Or maybe it's going to church now and having the opportunity to study under a great minister who cuts through the bullshit and is willing to challenge everything that the rest of the Christian world has accepted as gospel truth. In days like the ones in which we live, it is refreshing to hear a message that maybe Jesus isn't just out there to hate gays and women who want to live their own lives in peace. Today I marveled as I learned there is another way of looking at Christ's death apart from the usual atonement doctrine. It was simple. Jesus lived a life that in his place and time would only guarantee him a crucifixion. He was an enemy of the state and the establishment. A rebel. Maybe he was deemed a terrorist in his own time. Hey, if you or I were carrying on like he was, telling people they didn't need to honor a government if it's not serving humanity, we'd be locked up and perhaps deemed an enemy of the state. The more I hear about Jesus, the more I like the guy. And that's because he stood for everyone. Unconditionally. He stood for the little guy, the women, the sick and even the one who betrayed him. It's hard not to like that sort of person. He is the role model for true living.

Or maybe it's the way I feel pity for the world that is sleepwalking headlong into disaster with no plan B, but is throwing the best party it can till the end. I shake my head at the silly things we do that we think are important now. I don't think anyone now alive will escape some drastic change that is ahead. I am not apocalyptic in my thinking. I utterly reject that nonsense that is bandied about now, but I do think I can entertain Darwin and Christ. They aren't mutually exclusive. Christ isn't responsible for population overshoot and dieoff. These things happen on their own. In the face of that sort of thing, that's when Jesus can make or break things. Will people remember his directives to live compassionately and in peace? Will his teachings reach into the souls of people who are goint to watch their physical world unravel within their lifetimes? Can all of us who turn into animals when in our automobiles somehow put all that aside as we find that we need to turn our physical worlds into places worth respecting and cherishing, instead of poisoning our earth and air? With the failure of our monetary system of ever present debt (that motivates the economy to grow), will people realize that money never meant anything in the first place, and that all that matters is that we work together to meet all our needs?

Beauty will soldier on one way or another. I fear a period of dark ages to come, as the 20th century passes to the 21st century, and the 21st century convulses from the withdrawal from the decadence and vice that was the last century. I fear that in that period of withdrawal and adjustment there could be a loss of literacy and education—a hallmark of a dark age. In a world of less available energy, we can't count on computers to run, so we can't count on all the information on the millions of hard drives to be available. In a century that is bound to be one of resource wars, fear, and readjustment to more organic modes of living, I fear that people won't have the time to get educations the way we do now. Or people won't be able to teach their kids because, well, they themselves were raised in failed schools, and babysat by the TV and video games. With most available time needing to be spent somehow ensuring survival, education could be a luxury, the same as it was to those who enjoyed it before the oil age began. All the refinements we experienced in our society might be in peril. Women's rights are already in peril, after a few short years of relative emancipation. Gays are on the hot seat now too. The social progress we made in the last hundred years isn't guaranteed to be permanent. Already, the sons and daughters and grandchildren of the blacks who fought for civil rights are complacent, their elders' struggles a historical footnote, a distraction from watching TV or playing games, or downloading music.

But back to beauty. As wretched as our world can be, I have this feeling that maybe we need to savor our human accomplishments while they last. I don't think our space program has much of a future. Kiss Mars and the Moon goodbye. Between the issues of energy depletion, looming national bankruptcy, and lower and lower numbers of great mathematicians and scientists with minds for that sort of thing, I don't think we are really going to do much more than we are now. Before long, all that knowledge will be lost to the people who die with it in their heads, or the physical elements will be stolen or burned or hidden in some underground bunker in Southwestern Asia, to emerge in several hundred years when 20 generations down the line, people are hunting for scraps of shelter and minerals. Without the people to teach them about what they have discovered, our wonderful intellectual accomplishments might seem the same to them as ancient Cuneiform writings appear to us now. They will marvel at stories passed down to them about flying machines and the hundreds of ways we've created to kill each other. They will look at the moon and make mythologies to explain the few instances in the deep dark past when mankind walked up there. They will still have our freeways to remember us by, but they will be battle damaged and in ruins. They will be as puzzled about the things as we are when we contemplate Mayan ruins.

We might be psychotic as hell, with all sorts of refinements in all manner of life, but the world still is marvelous in its way. My future isn't written, but it doesn't need to be in order to look at it and see the beauty in things all around me. Some things will go on forever. The silvery glow of a full moon; the fiery sunrises and sunsets; the motion of the waves; the death of nature in fall and winter and its rebirth in spring. One day the Beatles won't be singing to us anymore, and our cars won't be anything but rusty heaps, and our complex civilization will give way to a way of life that is more in touch with nature, the same as it was before the oil bubble. People will have to trust each other again, and work together, instead of killing or jailing or enslaving each other in the name of profit. Nature will dictate how we can carry on with this human project. I guess the question is whether or not we will cooperate or go down fighting it every step of the way.

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