“It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this (plastic) bag was just… dancing (on the wind) with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever….Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it… and my heart is going to cave in.”
–Ricky, American Beauty, screenplay by Alan Ball
I’m looking out my window in Kalispell, Montana at a most wondrous sunset. The thunderstorms again passed us by, but consolation is the sun glowing off the ripples of the remaining clouds.
Beauty. What does it mean? I mean most people would look at a scene like this and agree: yep, that’s beauty. They would see a lake stretched out in impossible blue with the sun exploding sparkles off the waves and say yep, that’s beauty. They might see a towering mountain range blanketed in snow with emerald forests spreading down into the valley and say yep, that’s beauty. They might see a man with carved and handsome features or a woman with cascading hair and a shining smile and say yep, that’s beauty. But if we keep our definition of beauty limited to these types of classic things, WOW, we are totally missing out on about 99.99% of all the beauty in the world! Not only that, but many people, perhaps including you, can get so caught up in the unhappiness of the moment, that you even miss out on the beauty of moments like the ones above. That’s because beauty, like everything else, is a belief! For a little bit, I’m going to take you on a little journey through the beautiful road of my life. At the end of this, I’m going to give you some homework—don’t worry, it will be FUN homework! Hell, when has ANY homework I’ve given you NOT been fun???
Here are some scenes of beauty in my life that maybe you would not have considered beautiful if they passed into your life:
I was five and I saw Yosemite Valley for the first time and I thought “how could even God have made a place as beautiful as this?”
I remember about that same age and we were driving outside Las Vegas in the summer and the aluminum suitcase on the top of our car melted and exploded across 4 lanes of Interstate 15. Cars on both sides of the road stopped to help us pick clothes off the road and I remember thinking how beautiful it was, first the colors of the clothes all over the gray concrete, and second that these people were all helping ME to shorten my period of complete embarrassment!
I was eleven and playing dodgeball and Kathy Quiett was bouncing that ball on her fist getting ready to take someone OUT, and I was thinking: “beautiful, and an athlete too!”
Later that year, we drove across the country non-stop from San Diego to Maine to summer on my aunt’s farm and that trip was just loaded with beauty and wonder for me! A couple of the things I particularly remember was when everyone else would go to sleep, and I would go up and sit with the driver and just sit in silence and watch the dark countryside sliding past my window. And then in the morning, when everyone else was waking up, I would climb up into the loft, close off the front of it with pillows, open the window and fall asleep with the rush of the wind across my body—the sense of movement remains delicious to me to this day!
And when I was 16, and we went out cross country skiing at Mammoth Mountain at night, and the perfect combination of thawing and freezing of the snow in the valley had crystallized the flakes into tiny circles the shape of satellite dishes, so when the moon shined on them, they absolutely exploded in rainbow colors!
Seeing an eagle for the first time about 100 feet away from me, standing on a ridge and just staring at me, regal in every way.
The first time the four friends, myself, Victor, John, and Ward, met up after we all went to college, working through our discord and eventually walking around Berkeley, four-wide, with our arms around each others’ shoulders.
Driving to work at 6 am, completely stopped in traffic, hungover, and then seeing the sun light up the idling cars and the trash at the side of the road with an orange glow that seemed able to defeat anything depressing in the world.
Some of these you might say “yeah, I agree, that would be beautiful to me”, others you might say “huh, are you kidding me???” But the reason for the list is for you to see through my eyes for a moment that these things happen all around us, every day! You simply have to LOOK for them, instead of the “negative” things, the “scary” things. The choice of how to view the world around you belongs to you! So your homework is to get yourself someplace quiet where you can be comfortable and think easily, and then go back over your life (or even just your last week) and make a list of things you found that were beautiful that maybe someone else wouldn’t notice if they weren’t you. Take your time and make a nice, long list. Then, use what you’ve discovered to now be PROACTIVE to LOOK for other things of beauty to you in each moment of your life. As you start doing this, see how your experience in the world starts to change. Does it become harder to see the “negatives” when you are focusing on the beautiful? What other, unexpected changes did you find?
One last thing I want to add, and certainly not the least, in fact the MOST beautiful thing that has ever graced my life, is my relationship with Mary. You know we try within these pages to describe how our relationship is SO DIFFERENT from the ones you read about in all the dating and relationship blogs, magazines, and websites, but the purest form of the difference for me is simply the beauty of our interactions with each other. The beauty of never having to censor what we say to each other—NEVER. The beauty of how our ideas play off each other to create new directions to go in, solutions that we never would have thought of without each other and the way we communicate, the beauty of how we ENJOY each moment together—and I mean really INCREDIBLE JOY, and how we cannot wait for the next moment to be together. The beauty of how we know that together we can not only survive, but THRIVE in the face of anything the world decides to throw at us because we are two, fearless, resourceful people who operate as one with one clear vision for where our world starts: what’s important? You and I!
I say this in all seriousness: to me, she and our relationship are more beautiful than a million amazing sunsets, a planet full of Yosemite Valleys, or a thousand nights of exploding rainbow snow crystals! It’s a beauty that transcends my words, because it is so completely effortless, so full of JOY and LOVE, and so laden with excitement and anticipation for the future!
Open your eyes. Look for the beauty all around you. Look for the beauty in your relationship. Trust me, it’s there! All the time!