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.
We are all naturally creative beings.
I believe strongly that each person possesses this innate creativity; it is a part of the deepest realization of self. Whether or not we recognize this creativity has no bearing on its presence within us. As created beings, we necessarily have a share in this creative power that inspired us into existence.
I think the problem is that many of us don’t know how to access our creativity. I frequently hear people rejecting a “creative” label, saying things like, “I’m just not very creative” or “I’m not very good at creative things.” However, at this preliminary step of self-labelling, we block our natural capacity for creativity. Why do we reduce the value of a creative act to external judgements of “good” or “bad”? Is the purpose in expressing creativity merely to display said creativity, and to gain objective approval?
No. In fact, when we define creativity by these terms, we transform it into a kind of utilitarianism. Creative acts become valued for the end or for a purely practical purpose, and the joy and beauty of the creative process is lost as a result. Creating with such a goal in mind does not channel our true creativity but instead stifles what is good about the creative act. It does so through our attempts to control and manipulate the thing we are creating, rather than giving it the freedom it needs and deserves (similar to the freedom with which we were imbued at creation).
I never want to forget about beauty.
I never want to forget about light- any kind of light… the way it gleams through cracks in doorways and glistens through the blinds. Colours dancing on the walls, and soft and peaceful shades. I don’t want complacency to keep me seated and sure in things in which I have found nothing before.
Even when joy flickers on my eyelids, I blink and only darkness. Only for a second. But I let the evil enter. I listen. I let it shade my solitude, allow it access to my thoughts. I want to control or to ignore it. Control is fleeting, because I cannot attain it, though I try with endless run-throughs and sickly waves of guilt. Ignorance is no better, for it smothers my joy, holds her back just a little. It puts restrictions on my freedom, imposes limits on my peace.
This is not the life I want. This is not the choice I want to make.
If there’s something I’ve been learning this summer, it’s that there is a lot of beauty in the quiet moments. After all, most of life is made up of them. No one can exist entirely at the pinnacle of excitement and adventure. Life consists mainly of the “routine” daily happenings. What we make of them is what matters.
I find that some people strive to certain goals or aspirations simply to say they have done them. What is the point of that? Doing something just for the sake of doing it… It seems to me that such a pursuit merely involves reaching for a title… nothing more. But perhaps to some, life is just a long list of titles: of conquests and shallow triumphs.
I don’t want to feel I need to do something simply to check it off a universal list. In fact, I don’t think there is a universal list. I have my own path, as we all do, and I want to follow where it leads me. Not every moment is remarkable. But even those unrepeated stories do not fade.