Thursday, October 08, 2009
A passion for beauty
Kalachakra sand mandala
Just recently I began reading the daybook Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. In today's reading she writes about having a passion for beauty, for desiring beautiful things: artwork, music, poetry, rich fabric, glassware, color, flowers, jewelry--anything that enriches and enhances our lives with joy.
Lately I have come to the conclusion that whatever art or beauty I participate in, I want it to be practical. I don't want to produce a painting or sculpture or piece of handmade jewelry or even a book that needs to be preserved. I would rather it have some practical use, like cooking a delicious meal or planting a garden or singing my own interpretation of a song for an audience or writing a sermon or poem to be spoken aloud. This world already has too many things, too much waste. I don't want to add to it.
Now that may sound harsh to some, that art cannot continue to be frivolous or art for its own sake. But I think this points to our fear, our desire to hold onto beauty because one day it will fade or change. Witness the enormous digital camera enterprise, yet our reluctance to print these pictures. We want to preserve the moment, to not let it go, yet we do not take the time to make something permanent of that moment. Or we are obsessed with doing so, as seen in the scrapbooking movement. I also think this may be the source of our materialism and our infatuation with novelty, to be able to possess the beautiful thing, whatever it is, that we may hold a piece of beauty and temporarily satisfy our passion for it.
For me, the purpose of creativity is not to produce a 'thing' to be preserved but to live a life that is a work of art, a thing of beauty in and of itself. I want to enjoy beauty but to then let it go. I think of Buddhist monks who, in the attitude of prayer, painstakingly create a beautiful mandala out of colored sand but then sweep it away in the same attitude.
We are only passing through. The key is to appreciate beauty whenever we witness it and to give thanks to the mystery that brought it into being.
"Nothing gold can stay." --Robert Frost
Posted by Cynthia at 2:10 PM