in honor of the beauty I cannot describe
Sitting on my couch the other night, book in hand, I startled my pup when I let out a wail.
YES! Oh my god YES.
I read the passage out loud, breathless, and howled again.
I think there’s no other way to describe the wild bliss that swelled within me.
I’d stumbled upon a selection from Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality. Do yourself a favor and read this aloud.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
“And not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come…”
Trailing clouds of goddamn GLORY. (Those whose disdain for poetry is starting to show, hold tight and keep reading.)
Does that not just get you right in the feels?!
Or perhaps music is more your language, in which case I invite you to consider this song by Jeff Buckley (who is my sadly-deceased twin flame, he just didn’t know it), or this one by Anais Mitchell as part of her Hadestown score, or this epic piece by Above & Beyond.
The creation and expression of epic beauty is beyond powerful. But what makes it so?
I’ve pondered whether it is a question of evocation. Is a thing beautiful if it brings emotion bubbling to the surface, whether that be tears or joy?
That didn’t quite seem to touch the core.
The ecstatic gush seems deeper than raw emotion.
It is indeed one of the more heavily debated topics in early philosophy: is it objective, or in the eye of the beholder? Clearly not EVERYONE agrees that Jeff Buckley is their lost love and melts at the sound of his voice, and a trip to any art museum with a friend will display that our inspiration alights on different works of art.
In The Symposium, Plato suggests that it is a natural progression from learning to love the beauty of the body, emergent from the longing of the soul to become immortal:
Starting from individual beauties, the quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung—that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, and from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself—until at last he comes to know what beauty is.
I have a new theory:
I believe the Divine Beauty in me recognizes the expression of Divine Beauty in all things… in discovering a mirror of herself, she squeals in delight to see such magnificence in the looking glass.
I described it to a dear friend as such:
It’s like the Beauty of my soul recognizes OTHER Soul Beauty and REACHES OUT… in the meeting there is an ecstatic knowing there is no separation, only a thread of gleeful, exclamatory, transcendent Joy.
Beat poet, wanderer, and controversial figure Jack Kerouac famously penned these words on his quest for consciousness:
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
I don’t think that madness is a quality held solely in the hearts of a few, but lies waiting dormant at the center of all evolving souls. We all crave beauty… it is the earthly mirror of the inner divine beauty that can be so difficult to see in the everyday mundane.
I used to hike through the glorious mountains, eyes focused on the stones and roots and my feet, and barely pause to drink in the stunning and rugged landscape laid out beyond the pebbles on the trail.
May we slow down enough to let it take our breath away, and be courageous enough to cry out in bliss when we recognize our Soul expressed in a divinely colored sunset… or other beauty we just cannot describe.
More Things of Beauty:
This song by Radiohead
Lost, by David Wagoner
I have read this Rilke poem a thousand times.
(Share with me the things that make you explode with glee…. ankati (at) ankatiday.com)