I am really loving how a shift in focus is revealing so much beauty in ways that I would usually ignore completely…I am practising the art, or discipline, of attentiveness and am finding it truly gratifying. #TheSacramentofNow
I had a really interesting discussion around beauty recently. It’s something that I often wonder about, with regards to photography. I find it so much easier to ‘receive’ photographs in the natural environment, and find myself feeling less inspired in urban areas. I think so much of this is down to perceptions of beauty…yet what I appreciate in the photography of others is that which makes you think, or question, justice, ethics or morality. Thinking in a theological way, it is absolutely within the images of brokenness that I see Christ, and they take on a sort of ‘beauty’ which is very different from our more worldly understandings. It is in those images, spaces, and cases where we least expect to see Christ, that Christ is revealed….
“Once I can recognise the divine image where I don’t want to see the divine image, then I have learned how to see. It’s really that simple. And here’s the rub: I’m not the one that is doing the seeing. It’s like there is another pair of eyes inside of me seeing through me, seeing with me, seeing in me. God can see God everywhere, and God in me can see God everywhere.”Richard Rohr
So far, summer has not afforded me as much opportunity to get out and get lost in photography as I would like. That said, I have recently been thinking through what beauty is…what it really is, not what we see it as from so many areas of society which wish to control what we want and how we look.
A few months ago I spent a week in Portugal and had the privilege of getting lost behind my camera, which was so refreshing. As well as the obligatory holiday snaps though, I wanted to capture a different view of beauty…
This was the view from our hotel room…I found it bizarre that each day these were the items which were hung to dry, and yet I saw something of beauty in the simplicity of this display.
We met a couple who were making their living through this art; one would paint the rocks the other would arrange them. Their messages were simple. For me the beauty was in the way they were seeking to challenge and their understated way of offering this to the world.
I had never been so close up to even one peacock, let alone whole families of them. Here the beauty was in what had not been previously seen, as well as in their inquisitive charm!
We had not been aware that it was PRIDE on our first day in Lisbon. Watching the parade come through the city was incredibly moving though. Again the beauty was in the simple sentiments, such as ‘Love has no limits’.
Beauty as attraction! In the square bubbles were being blown and flying off in all directions due to the wind. It was so simple, and yet fascinating to watch them, wondering how long they would last, where they would land, when they would burst.
Beauty in the simple solutions, in that which is old, or distorted by rust, beauty in that which many would not notice, or is the beauty in the blue backdrop?
Beauty in the warmth of the evening, beauty in the sunset glow.
Whilst I am not sure I managed to capture a different view of beauty, I see this as the beginning of a conversation, which I invite you to join in with. A conversation where we capture beauty in all of its awe and wonder, beauty as breath-taking because of its freshness, not as perfection but rather as imperfection, beauty as that which is not known, beauty as something which allows us to glimpse the Divine in the everyday.
Please share your images of this kind of beauty in the comments section to enable us collectively to rewrite the meaning of beauty, so that our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren can grow up being released and liberated by its definition, rather than constrained or imprisoned by it, afraid to go out, to wear what they really like, or to be truly and wonderfully who they are!
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways in which difference is held together in Japan, and the Japanese understanding of beauty and stillness. I have been struck by the number of people from other lands who have made Japan their home for so many years, as well as reflecting on my own story, and why I returned to Britain after living here for four years. There is a mix of ancient and modern, secular and sacred, stillness and disturbance, each held in such close proximity.
There can be invitation alongside hostility…
…it can feel like two parallel universes; equally as a foreigner here, all that I have known can feel like it is from a parallel universe, one that is presently inaccessible.
Rituals and respectfulness can demonstrate the beauty of the soul.
Often blue sky and sunshine can elevate the soul.
Equally, without warning, unfortunate events unfold; those that you would much rather leave behind or not have to receive, like ‘bad fortunes’ that can be left in the safety of the shrine rather than accompanying you home.
Then there are customs which bring you to your knees, like these prayers for children – especially those who did not have very long with us – given hats and bibs to keep them warm, as well as windmills to offer relief from the sun.
It seems that there is nowhere quite like this wonderful place of contradictions amidst harmony – where space or stillness is sought after within a busyness that I may never truly understand….
I’ve been thinking about how people are a little bit like cracked or imperfect vessels. Each vessel is imperfect in a different way, and that may be more or less noticeable, but each is imperfect none the less.
Some might be too small to be of any real use…
Others might look beautifully ornamental but not have a purpose…
Some might just be the wrong shape for what you intend to use them for…
Or not deep enough to contain the growth that is happening…
They might have a good side, but damage on the other…
Or not be very good at allowing light to shine out, even though that is what they were designed for…
Or whilst perfect when they’re new, they rust once the weather gets to them!
Whilst these criticisms are specific to vessels, how does imperfection and brokenness manifest itself in people – in you and those around you? Is it easier to see in others? Are we quick to judge those around us whose imperfections may be slightly more obvious than our own…do we convince ourselves that our imperfections are not as damaging or as bad as those of others?
What if we try instead to see the beauty in others? What if we look into the eyes of those around us and searched for what they hold inside them and for the things about them that we love?
The room was huge – bigger than
you might be able to envisage,
stretching as long as it was wide
It seemed to go on and on…
goodness knows what it was
before this destruction?
A banqueting hall perhaps,
which would make more sense
of the ceramic debris covering the floor!
Eyes took a few moments to adjust
to the poor lighting as they looked in
from the old heavy double doors.
Windows, covered by dense curtains,
allowed only a few shards of light
to break through the cracks
and the electricity of the industrial
revolution was yet to arrive
in this once fine and grand palace.
All that remained of such grandeur
were these shattered pots now
littering the floor, buried in dust.
Different shapes, sizes,
colours and patterns
reflected the diverse range
of ceramics they had once styled.
And now this was all just rubbish,
they could never be pieced together
to return to their previous existence.
They were broken and useless
with no further vessel potential…or was there?
What might it be like if each of
these pieces were gathered
together to form one single vessel?
The vision, small at first, grew beyond
all reckoning – it became an obsession!
Slowly initially, then more intentionally,
hands gathered individual pieces and
gently wiped away dust and traces of decay
before placing them carefully
and purposefully alongside one another.
Dust stirred up as feet tentatively pushed
broken pottery aside, deliberately
taking care not to add further damage
to these precious pieces, as they moved
deeper into the room to seek and gather.
An initially small and seemingly
insignificant workspace spread
as clutter gained a sense of sequence.
The sound of steady breathing alongside
a light chinking and clinking of ceramic
pieces making contact was all that
accompanied the silence
in the vast banqueting hall.
The divine artist worked unceasingly
to form broken fragments into a
vessel of unique splendour and artistry;
pieces fused together with golden lacquer
took on a greater depth and charm
than had ever emanated from them
in their previous existences!
Brokenness led to beauty as
the divine artist gathered, shaped
and moulded the pieces of pot like clay.
Never before had anything like it
been crafted or created but as eyes
observed the work of their hands
and saw the immense light that the
powerful vessel had been built around,
they looked and saw that it was good.
And then they rested!
Master tent maker
Of people, places
spaces and species
Of all that is
Needed and known
Homes from leaves
trees and wood
From things grown
Out and open
To bricks, mortar
Fashioned and finished
Never to move
Is this intention
Divine and inspired
Or shaped by
When did life become
Static and stagnant
Lacking natural flow
In worship and work
Bring back the
Master tent maker
That we might live
And worship amongst
Sleep under stars
Awaken to dripping
Rain on canvas
Ever reminded of
Master tent maker
#643 The sheer #beauty of the #illumination which occurs when #light intersects with #darkness makes me wonder whether both are necessary…if there was no darkness, would we appreciate the light for its power and beauty?