Throughout the past week and a half, I’ve been suffering from frequent headaches. Or, more accurately put, I’ve been suffering from one continuous headache, which has shifted its shape, has ebbed and has flowed, but has not abated.
It’s easy to become discouraged when in perpetual pain, and discouragement is an understatement for how it has affected me at times. Instead of being able to read and write, my mind has been sluggish and slow; thinking hurts. Instead of being able to do, and feel value in doing, I’ve been forced of necessity to rest, to be content in being. Instead of seeking out the light, I hide from it – close the curtains, turn off lights, lament a sun-filled day.
Sometimes I have this sense of being perpetually behind. It can be hard to account for – at times, the feeling arises when from external appearance I might seem to be doing well or exactly on schedule. Objective perspective might suggest things are fine, and yet I still have this feeling that I have not done enough, that I could have or should have done more.
If something small is capable of bringing you happiness – let it. Be in that moment, imagining this little joy can fill you up. Allow it to matter.
Don’t dismiss it as meaningless, trivial, or not enough. It is enough for this present, and doesn’t need to be more. The next moments will bring their own meaning – their own sorrows and joys – and you will be able to handle them when they come, but not before.
There is something so beautiful and small about feeding the birds. I paused on my walk through the woods and stretched out my hand. In the distance, both in front and behind, the sound of children’s laughter and crunching of crisp snow echoed along the otherwise secluded path.
I raised my hand a little higher. The little black seeds stood out against my open palm, an offering extended freely. The sun filtered through the spindly branches and cast shadows: those little strips of light were painting the snow. I looked up.
What is the value of wonder?
This is something I have been reflecting on lately, and the idea was brought into sharper focus when I was running along my usual route. The path beside the water was dappled with winter – there were icy patches in the pavement cracks and streaks of frost on the grass. But the landscape was not yet consumed by winter’s silence: it was still alive and visible beneath this surface layer of cold and snow. The water was also not subdued: it moved with great freedom, waves that rolled in sharpened wind.
The sky’s blue is almost as rich as the river below it. Sheltered beneath the paternal curving branches and watching as the birds explore with song, I think, and the thoughts come with ease. I think that it is easy to see beauty on a day such as this. Spring has accelerated the water’s pace and filled it to bursting with joy. The new grass is animated by the breeze, which makes it dance. And warmth pulses with an agreeable freshness.
We often spout off lines about the unimportance of beauty, or at least its subservience to other, greater things. We say things like, “Beauty is only skin deep” or “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
But I want to ask: Is this really true?
Certainly we would say that a person who cares only about physical beauty and disdains knowledge or understanding of the interior is a very shallow person indeed. We would probably go so far as to say that they are “not a very good person at all.” However, concern for physical beauty does not necessarily align with the all-or-nothing approach. A person might care about physical beauty (in themselves and in others), though this is not all they care about or the primary thing that they care about. My question is not only, should we care about physical beauty? but also, is it possible for us not to care about physical beauty?
In writing reviews, I look for films that hold some deeper resonance or artistic merit, something I can latch onto like a thread to further unravel, forming a reflection. Yet there are some films which resonate with me so profoundly that it is a struggle to think of translating them in some way or shape into the medium of language. This reveals, in a sense, the divide between the image and the word, and the limitation of language.
The image is what gives a movie its special power and significance. An image can strike and affect us in a way unlike anything else. Think, for example, of the face of a suffering person: perhaps a close family member or friend you saw going through a hard time, or even the face of a complete stranger you saw on the news in connection with some calamity. Such a face can remain in our minds with almost a haunting endurance. Of course, images can be evoked by good writing as well, and when I think back on many of my favourite novels, I am reminded of a particularly potent image of a scene between characters or of something that occurred in the plot. Yet this is still different from the way in which the image confronts us so boldly in the course of a film. Sometimes the sharp detail of this image affects our emotions in an immediate and powerful manner we are unable to describe.
I entered quickly, through sliding doors that parted like a shining sea. The aisles were well-stocked with food, aggressively proclaiming freshness and appeal. For a moment I was stranded, adrift among the stands, which formed a maze winding to the end of the store.
But it was only a moment.
Some shoppers were consulting lists or studying competing brands intently. Others darted from row to row, accumulating piles of produce; others still were probing vegetables and fruits, in pursuit of that elusive unblemished product.
Life does not occur on a level plane. There are inevitable highs and lows. Yet this is what gives to life value, and preserves the sanctity of wonder, joy and beauty, so they are not reduced to a monotonous existence, an impoverished understanding of life. Life has what I might call a natural and necessary ebb and flow. This is evident in the changing seasons of life. There is a circularity in the yearly repetition of special occasions and holidays. However, there is also a singularity to these events: they happen once in the entire cycle of days, and their value would be denigrated if instead they were constantly recurring.
This is true of both the creative and the spiritual life (since the two are inextricably connected). Creative ascent is so named because it involves a movement above the normalcy of life. The creative individual is given this unique ability to transcend his human capacity and earthly height, in order to see from a higher perspective. To me, this sort of miraculous rise (and by miraculous I mean creative or spiritual insight that seems to go beyond the limits or processes of reason) can be compared to the climber’s trek up the mountain.