Bright orange poppies, California’s state flower, are plentiful this year, and surround me in the in the high grass at creekside. Vultures soar by at nearly treetop level, exhibiting effortless flying skills with their huge wingspans.
Suddenly the sounds of blackbirds, quail, pheasant and songbirds fill the air, superseding the sound of the stream. The senses open, and the feeling of the earth penetrates through the fog of thought/emotion, dissipating it.
For the better part of a timeless hour, there’s a sense of not being quite able absorb the beauty before and around one, without the effort to do so. There is simply the overwhelming fact of beauty. The mind and heart have to ‘catch up’ to the actuality of the beauty of the earth by simply letting the senses grow fully attuned and present.
Clearly, without a relationship with nature, with beauty beyond the mind of man, we cannot have relationship with anyone or anything. The beauty of nature reflects what used to be called the mind of God. The former phrase is literal, the latter metaphorical, though actual beyond deism or theism.
Standing, one has the insight that when a human being feels the impersonal love of the earth, he or she cannot do harm to the biosphere of this beautiful planet. At a time when everything is personalized, it’s difficult for many people to grasp that love does not flow from the personal but out of the impersonal dimension.
There won’t be solutions to climate change and species extinction without enough people awakening within an impersonal love for the earth. Science and technology, when put first, are part of the problem; they cannot save the earth, or humanity. Only beauty can supersede the greed.
But there is a deep confusion about the meaning and place of beauty, especially by public intellectuals. People can and should make beautiful homes and gardens if they can, but beauty is not man-made, nor is it external at all.
When someone says, “You can take the radical leap, because life ultimately is beautiful,” they demonstrate a confusion between life and the world, much less the meaning of radical change.
When someone speaks of beauty in man-made terms, referring to “immaculate and meticulously designed gardens,” he or she attests to having little feeling for the immeasurably greater beauty of the wildness of nature.
And when someone says, “Reality will not let you down,” he or she contributes to the destruction of the human spirit, because reality, which is the man-made world of traditions and institutions, is letting all of us down.
Why must thought completely yield and fall silent for direct perception of beauty?
Because even utilitarian thought, which allows us to amass knowledge and develop technology as humans, is inherently separative. And psychological thought, which has become the dead weight of tradition and the tribe, is suffocating the human heart.
“A belief in beauty expressed in personal and practical ways” is therefore sentimental nonsense. For one thing, belief has nothing to do with it; for another, beauty is not personal.
More importantly, there is no practical value to the perception of beauty. It cannot be bought and sold on the market. Yet without it, our lives become barren.
It’s fine to surround oneself and one’s children with beautiful things, but if we don’t have a living quality of beauty within us, no external beauty matters.
There are millions of people that live in poverty and even squalor, through no fault of their own. Yet they can, and often do have more beauty in themselves and their lives than rich people. That is not only a tragedy; it’s a travesty.
Indeed, if America is any measure, there seems to be an inverse and perverse relationship between the wealth of a country, and the beauty or ugliness of its people.
The tendency is to externalize beauty, to see beauty in nature as picturesque, and conflate it with a well-designed bridge, building or piece of furniture. However externalizing beauty denies the perception and growth of the human being.