Thursday, June 15, 2006

Worshipping Beauty

One author once wrote that beauty is best appreciated by someone, who, upon seeing something beautiful and fully appreciating it, sees the gulf dividing him and it. The true worshipper is the one who gazes on from afar.

(Or so it goes. I can’t claim this to be my original idea, but I don’t want to do the writer any injustice by misquoting him terribly.)

I used to think of this as another aphorism. Now I know this to be true.

I am in love with beautiful things. They can range from the delicate asymmetry of seashells, the careful intricacy of mosaics, or the splash of color in an impressionist painting. I like the contrast of the parched earth and the burning sun, or the lacy contrails of lightning that herald the rain.

I marvel at the grandeur of architectural wonders --- the grandest ones I’ve been in have been the old churches that dot my native land, but I also am intrigued by simplicity by which the function becomes the form in well-designed edifices.

Some people say I have the gift of song. No, I politely disagree; I have been gifted to have listened to the songs of others. Or to have the space I inhabit imbued by the music to which my elders loved listening. I have been gifted to be able to know which music could be good and others which are great.

Most others believe I have the gift of words. I never disagree then; but only ask those who give praise to read and try to understand. As to the others who don’t read … I will cast whatever treasures I may to them. Only then could the cycle be complete, for true beauty can never be contained or truly possessed. It must be shared.

Which brings us now to the beauty of the human form --- yes, I certainly could use more of the kind of sultriness that speaks to humans on an animal level --- not just the one-boner, but certainly the two- or three-boner kind. (If you don’t have any understanding of this, just pretend you do… and no, I haven’t experienced beauty of a four-boner variety. My body just couldn’t hack it and I really don’t have that salacious bent that others have.)

But that’s just beauty that speaks only to one sense. I also see beauty that shines from within; something that illuminates the eyes or the gestures of people and make them transcend the boundaries of their bodies. I see this mostly in the eyes of truly devoted mothers, especially the ones who are deathly poor. The love they have for their children simply overwhelms whatever privation they are experiencing. It is nothing short of miraculous.

And what about the beauty that is forbidding, the one I spoke about in the beginning?

I talk about a “beautiful” person and something within that person’s eyes, movements, speech, exact words appeal to me in such a way that I feel awkward, oafish, misshapen, unwanted, unappealing. I am under no illusions as to how appealing a person I am; neither do I allow myself to be oppressed by those who judge me by my looks and find me wanting.

Still, I am overwhelmed by the thought of someone truly beautiful --- whose physical form is shaped by even more powerful forces within. They are a gift of God to the universe, and no matter how the person himself or herself is as imperfect as each of us mortals are, their own failure to realize themselves does not detract anything from the beauty with which they are imbued. In fact, such beauty is magnified by it because it is unadorned or at times unaware.

(Yeah, I am rambling.)

Such beauty then, affects me such that the heart races, and then STOPS.

I am ultimately overjoyed and yet find my own inadequacy soul-crushing.

The composer Rey Valera puts it another way --- such beauty is to be worshipped, not only loved. The Divine, in His complete understanding, cannot help but allow me this conceit for He has allowed such beauty to be its cause.

No matter if the one I behold twists me into a pitiful wretch, into a helpless puddle of protoplasmic slime. No matter if I, forever supplicant, would give in to each and every one of your endless and impossible demands. No matter, that I who have fallen into depravity, will sell my soul that you may quench its very life and leave my husk on some forgotten roadside.

No matter if I am just another step to another of your conquests, that you may lace my life with a slight smile that will burst my spirit into flame, and yet rending that same spirit with guilt of not doing as you please. Forever the memory of your face is imprinted into my brain, and if by some wicked turn of Pavlov you make me jump through hoops of fire or perform parlor tricks for your own amusement, I will go about such business in the most hangdog manner possible.

No matter if my fevered brain churns out words so desperately so that I could just make you keep on talking, that I may revel in whatever tale you spin, however inane or what’s worse, false.

I look at such beauty and only then do I comprehend the true meaning of despair. How can one such as I hold her close to me?

And yet, even one who despairs must harbor even the smallest drip, an iota, of hope. For such devotion, so long as it be true, can never be destroyed. It is the same promise for me that despite the hard road, no more can I reverse the flow of gravity than can I corrupt the meaning of such beauty.

Only God can do that. So I pray, just as I pray to Him, that even as I am betrayed by my own frailty, that He will lead me to my own designated shore, be it hers or some other’s. Though I am almost certain I will delude myself and break my heart again; it is just my nature that I will keep on doing so.

I have seen something, no, someone, truly beautiful and though I have just caught a glimpse of what she could be, I can only despair of how far apart we could be as people, just as I despair that in a few days I will fly away and be bereft of her presence for another year. Not even knowing what she would think. Or much worse, knowing that she can give no more than kind regards.

No one needs to cast auguries to see that this can be purgatory.

May it just lead me to Heaven someday.

(And you, you who have inspired this post, you must know who you are. I have no wish to deny what I feel for to be untrue to you is to be untrue to all that I hold true in myself, and all that I value. Yes, all of this can end badly, especially for me. Even so, hope springs eternal.)

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