Friday, March 02, 2007

I Walk in Beauty

In beauty I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
Everything around me, in beauty I walk
In beauty I walk
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again
It has become beauty again

—Navajo Prayer

There is a Navajo ceremony, "the Beauty Way," which notes the importance of beauty in their lives. Is beauty something inherent in the distant view, or in the object at hand, or is it something that exists only in the "eye of the beholder?" Good questions with a simple answer. Beauty describes the state of relationship between the observer and the observed, just as love describes the relationship between the lover and the beloved. The Beauty Way ceremony of the Navajo attempts to restore the sense of beauty and harmony between the observer and the observed. At some point in your life you may have felt overwhelmed by a sunset, or stood within the walls of a cathedral or amongst the redwoods or in a quiet forest and felt somehow changed and at peace. If so, you know the kinds of feelings involved, and the sense of well-being that ensues. Those are the feelings expressed in the Navajo poem, "I Walk in Beauty," and to live with that constant sense of beauty would be my wish for myself and all those who might stumble onto this blog.

I get those feelings of beauty and harmony at museums when I am in the presence of objects crafted by the energies of the human hand and heart. There are objects in museums that I visit like old friends. The pleasure I take in them is a reflection of something within me. I see their beauty from the vantage point of my own efforts to create beauty. My own work with my hands is the foundation. Knowing the effort involved, my face pressed to the glass, I stand in awe.

And what happens to generations of children who haven't had the chance to create objects of usefulness and beauty with their own hands? Will they discover beauty in the objects crafted by the human hand if they have no relationship with their own creativity? Our children's faces and our own are pressed to the glass of monitors where virtual life is displayed. But, how about the glass in museums behind which the highest attainments of human virtue are preserved? Will we find our children standing in awe? We'll find out. The image above was taken of a woodcarving at the Cloisters in New York City.

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