‘Beauty is an elusive concept.’ ~ EON
At first sight, life is pretty beautiful. In fact, it’s awesome. There are so many instances of exquisite magic in everyday life, from the rising of the sun and a fiery sky to the waking up of nature and the first stirrings of the birds, to the patter of a five-year-old’s feet as he walks to kindergarten with his pop, to the magical humdrum of a city revving up to get things done in ways that boggle the mind: there are so many wonderful things going on, so much beauty.
In the cities, for example, at first light, sometimes even before first light, magic starts to happen behind the curtains. People begin to stir from their sleep. The empty streets swell up. Networks come to life and communications go up. Switches get flicked and reports start to fly around, information starts to fly around, adding up to a great torrent of interactivity that powers up places all over the globe.
Beyond the cities there’s the sweet wake-up call of the countryside, with its thousands of animals and plants, its myriad lifeforms stepping into the light. The beetle comes out for a walk on the forest path, while the lonely tractor wades its way through a field of corn, and a mother and daughter walk toward the apple orchards for the day’s pickings. A breeze blows coolly across fields of wheat that will be reaped to make bread for the communities of the planet. Somewhere in the distance an airplane engine roars, carrying people and goods to another continent.
It’s a beautiful thing, the sight of this aerial invention; a machine that has taken off from the ground and, zipping across the sky, six miles above the earth, is carrying people from one distant place to another at five hundred miles per hour, five hundred scorching miles per hour while the little tractor below frolics along like a beetle, a thing of beauty in itself, an agricultural contraption that does what ten pairs of hands and five beasts of burden couldn’t do in a week. The plane whizzes through the sky and the tractor frolics on the ground, and deep underground, packed firmly inside the earth, a mesh of optical cables carry information back and forth at fantastical speeds, while aqueducts carved inside rocky mountains supply the world’s inhabited spaces with water.
If you stop and look close enough, you will also see the beauty in the gathering of various people, up close and personal. At any point in time you can see friends getting together to have a meal and catch up after a week of not having seen each other. Lovers are snuggling in bed and making love, the only sound they hear coming from their heated breath. People are yawning with fatigue and someone, somewhere, brings them a coffee without having been asked to. A few walls down the hall someone is talking on the phone to people far away, to people he hasn’t seen in ages, people he misses, people he can Skype and WhatsApp and text message, people he can see via his computer screen in real time, and talk to for free, and instantly exchange pictures with via the cloud.
There’s people going out to the cinema and kicking back in dark rooms to be mesmerized by moving pictures and the sound and music that animate them. There’s people who go to church every week, to the mosque, to the synagogue, to sing along with their fellow believers in praise of something larger than life. Others pray under trees to the spirit of nature, others see God wherever they go, and some of them speak to God inside their heads, or through their hearts. Some believe in the wonder of science and see magic in every molecule, in every chemical reaction and mathematical formula, in every single research project that reveals something new about reality as they know it, pointing toward a reality they are only beginning to understand.
Even at night, when the sun goes out and the lights go down, or up, depending on where you live, beauty rises like a fountain and sprinkles everything around it. The moonlight drives appear on the glittering waters of the sea. The beaches are adorned with bonfires and people sing songs by the bay, taking walks in the silence of the night. The cities shine bright like otherworldly primordial organisms, their yellow and red capillaries stretching out into the distance, their centers superbly lit, beacons that power the surrounding areas. Dancing and singing takes place in venues where individuals from all walks of life gather to let loose and be merry, to laugh out loud, to shrug off the labors of the day.
And in the country people gather around the fire and talk, bringing to life stories of their old ancestors, or jokes and anecdotes passed around from town to town. Someone is taking his sweetheart to the top of a hill to gaze at the stars. Someone is baking a cake that warms up the entire house. Something makes the flowers go to sleep and the owls come out to scan the night for vermin, and a hoot slits the night and signifies the presence of wisdom.
Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there is beauty, beauty, beauty, amazing graceful wonderful beauty, inspiring beauty, beauty at all times, in the most obvious places, in the most unlikely places, everywhere you look, beauty, wherever you can imagine.
So why does life feel like such a chore at the end of the day, at the beginning of another? Why do people complain about a grinding routine that has robbed them of their spirit, their essence, their zest and enthusiasm? Why do most professionals and part-timers, as well as most people out of work, complain about the drudgery of living, the long-haul stretch that is hazing their minds and tiring them out?
Most importantly, why is the world haunted by feelings of stress, conflict, pressure and haste? Why is the image of hunger and deprivation so pervasive, and the image of death so prevalent, and the feeling of pain so common and widespread, and the notion of stress so universal?
Could it be that this beauty we are speaking of, this omnipresent wonder we have glorified so aptly, is a romanticized notion of reality, a glossed up exterior appearance we dutifully apply to the ugly face of this world every day, every day without fail, so that we may be able to deal with its grinding nature and make it through another crushing daily cycle?
Or maybe it’s just that beauty is the rare thing you find in the darkness. Maybe it’s the pearl inside the hard and slimy oyster, the silver lining in the dark, stormy sky, something you have to look hard for, and which takes time to locate and obtain — if you’re lucky and crazy enough to look for it and stubborn enough to find it.
Maybe beauty is not inside all the beautiful things one sees all around. Maybe the magic lies in being able to withstand the pervasive drudge, the perversity of the world, doing whatever is necessary to keep life going.
Maybe beauty is duty accomplished, or almost accomplished, or striven toward, duty acted upon, on the backdrop of which life shines bright.
Maybe beauty is survival, come what may, the rest just the details with which each surviving life form makes its days more palatable, much like the makeup one applies to oneself and the clothes one wears and the car one drives and the way one speaks to look and sound better, to come across better, to attract others, to hide something, anything that needs to be kept secret, out of sight, out of mind. Maybe the trick is to make things look and feel better than they are, to feign beauty, or inspire beauty, or, if one is lucky enough to possess it in the first place, to accentuate that innate and deeper magical quality, the quality one can call inner beauty.
Inner beauty! Real beauty! A rare, rare thing. Only time can bring it about, and it usually rests on the bright strength of something having survived crushing daily cycles on end. Even the beautiful sunrise in a pristine landscape adorned with trees, snow-capped peaks and gentle streams; it used to be an orgy of volcano and lava and ash and earthquake before it eventually settled down to the scenic wonder it is today.
In fact, one may call beauty the narrow sliver of bliss between the churn of life and the surrender to routine, the wafer-thin intermission between the rumble of creation and the shift into the taken for granted. Elusive as it is, people try and hold on to the wonder, to immortalize it, not only because it’s fleeting but also to keep themselves motivated, to keep themselves aspiring toward something worth the constant distress that being alive produces.
Intrigued? Watch this space for more.
From the collection of writings EON: THE ANGRY COMING OF AGE