Your Life is not a package tour…

by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

The temple bell stops–

but the sound keeps coming

out of the flowers. Basho

Have you noticed when on social media like Facebook, Pinterest or others, how so many people post beautiful and tender things and we are touched by it? There are the flash mob videos where we are stunned by the unexpected beauty of music or the beauty of a tender moment of an unexpected kindness, a baby, puppy or the dazzling beauty of nature.

Life with its constant struggle can leave us empty and tired. Yet when we see even small moments of beauty our hearts are rekindled and we become more alive and hopeful. A world without beauty would be unbearable. The small and gentle touches of beauty though subtle are what enable most of us to survive.

Many years ago, I heard a teacher read this story at a meditation retreat. It brought home to me just how beauty and tenderness can make even something tragic bearable and it gives us the courage to carry on.

From Mortal Lessons by Richard Seltzer: “I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks: ‘will my mouth always be like this? She asks. ‘Yes I say, it will; it is because the nerve was cut.’ She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles. ‘ I like it, he says. It is kind of cute’

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.”

Because it can be deeply hurt, our hearts can harden, yet there is an unprotected place that beauty can find and protect us. This does give us courage to carry on. Pascal said, “In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind”.

So the irony is even in the busyness of social media, it can help us “beautify” our gaze. We can remind each other and call to one another with the beautiful and tender. We can reach out and touch each other. Beauty touches us and we reflect and are still. Beauty does not wait for us to be perfect. It does not wait for perfection.

It is everywhere.