“Precisely where does the beauty of a tree reside? Like every other physical object, a tree is made up of atoms, and atoms are identical and without color. So when you call a tree beautiful you are actually speaking of something other than the atoms of which it is made. A light from the vibrations in the distant sun produces a wave towards your eye. When it reaches the tissues of your eye another vibration is set up and moves along a nerve like a telegraph wire, carrying the sensation to your brain. One such sensation we call greenness, another brownness, at third shapeliness. But there is no actual color either in the atoms of which the tree is composed or in all those vibrations. How then does the beauty of the tree arise? Shape, size, color touch, and the like are simply the names we call our sensations, and no amount of study of them can ever bring us to the notion of beauty in the tree. Beauty must therefore arise from some nonmaterial relation between the tree and myself.”
– C. S. Lewis
I am late on this post and I know this is supposed to be an exercise in self discipline to make me write weekly but life has never been polite about consulting me before taking over.
And life involves living and I am attempting to be more aware of the life that is happening around me and to be less nose deep in books…and laptops.
The realization that one is not very good at living is not a joyful one.
So I apologize for being late but I don’t mean it.
Deadlines are for real writers anyway.
C.S. Lewis was one such writer who probably felt the pressures of time.
I’m a fan of Lewis. He is my favorite theologian. Probably because he wouldn’t consider himself to be one and true humbleness always amazes me.
But I am also willing to admit that my preference for Lewis is probably because Lewis and I have pretty much the same “little “t” theologies”.
Anyway, I just really like the quote. It makes me think and in my opinion that’s the mark of well said words.
And despite Lewis being a Christian lay theologian, I think anyone of any mindset can appreciate them.
Besides, Clive Staples Lewis was an atheist when he spoke the quote into existence.
So what is beauty?
And lets stick with superficiality.
I have nothing against inner beauty. Beauty and The Beast is one of my favorite movies and inner beauty is kind of it’s central theme.
I think inner and physical beauty are binary when it comes to our being attracted to someone and being in love and all that jazz…especially when being in love while listening to jazz.
So Belle falls in love with The Beast because of what is inside and we are all happy but Lewis speaks of physical beauty and his inability to explain it or reconcile it with any sort of validity so we are going to stay that course.
So can beauty be understood?
It points beyond itself.
There is beauty in confusion and the unexplainable because beauty is those things.
I was recently in Arkansas doing a music thing.
I enjoy these trips but they come with a lot of down time in vans, hotels and towns and cities that I’m unfamiliar with. This can create boredom and a tendency to bury myself in a book(which I did do)but being with friends often helps with this conundrum and this trip was no different:
- I witnessed our guitarist bowl six strikes in a row. (and to my knowledge she is not a closet bowling aficionado.)
- I stayed up late watching Ancient Aliens in my hotel room with the boys in the band and this was fun despite the absence of our conspiracy theorist drummer. (did you know our moon is no moon but a space station?)
- Our singer and I switched our broken TV with a less broken one from a different room so we could watch the above mentioned extraterrestrial program. (it’s not exactly throwing a TV out of a window but this still made me feel like a rebel.)
- My very limited knowledge of coffee was expanded.(still don’t like it.)
And conversations were had in the van and I attempted to add words to them in hopes of obtaining a more social reputation.
I shouldn’t have.
Because I no longer agree with certain words I agreed with in that van.
My fickleness runs shamefully deep.
But here is what happened:
Our guitarist, the would be bowling pro, commented on a rather aesthetically pleasing sunset. I made the rather bold statement that the sunsets in my bi-weekly residence of north Texas are ALWAYS beautiful. She retorted with an equally bold belief that all sunsets are beautiful.
That conversation had a short life and died there.
But I disagree now.
I mean sunsets are a pretty universally loved, natural occurrence that can usually succeed in making anyone pause their life for a brief moment of admiration and an Instagram post. #NoFilter.
I have often stopped and thanked God for colors while looking at a sky full of color created by a descending sun.
And my disagreement for my previous foolish agreement stems from such a moment while on an evening walk this last week. The sky was painted with so many colors from a post-storm sunset and I couldn’t help but pause to take it in…and Instagram it of course.
But that conversation came to mind and I immediately decided that not all sunsets are beautiful.
At the least not equally beautiful.
This sky was a cosmic painting for which there are no words.
And maybe that’s the closest we can come to an understanding of beauty.
That it’s this awareness of being in the presence of a rarity of the utmost scarcity.
I mean, yeah sure, with the majority of a day sky so set on the color blue and nights sold out to black, all sunsets can evoke a sense of wonder in us and we can stare in awe at stars that shine in the absence of light pollution.
It’s like the technical truth that all people are beautiful.
I subscribe to the notion of our bearing the image of God and that supports that truth.
And maybe you don’t buy into that and that’s your prerogative as an open minded human being and that’s cool but you’ve probably at least heard the maxim, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
I also buy into whatever truth lives in that axiom.
I can look at someone’s refrigerator and see a magnet holding up a paper covered in crayon scribbles but the owner of that refrigerator sees a magnet holding up a drawing from their child made especially for them and it is beautiful to them.
It’s the Objective v. the Subjective and the Subjective always wins by KO in the first round when it comes to one’s definition of beauty.
I don’t see the physical beauty on every person I see but I believe everyone makes time stop for someone.
And maybe that’s just the romanticism that dwells in me.
I’m a romantic of the hopeless variety and that has to come from somewhere.
I think it comes from a longing for beauty
…… and I long for a wife one day.
If you know me, you know this is true.
The idolatry of marriage has at times been my biggest sin.
I still find myself in the occasional seasons of this very struggle.
And that’s ok.
I long for beauty and I long for love despite the fact that I cannot reconcile them to any logic that supports my belief in the joy they may bring.
Dear future wife,
I hope you exist. For real I hope you are indeed for real. And if you aren’t then it’s cool. God is still God. But maybe don’t read any further.
I pray for you. Not as much as I should so that’s not a brag.
Maybe it’s a tiny brag.
I often wonder what you will be like. I’m still young enough to desire you to enjoy some of the nerdy boy things I like, like it’d be cool if you really loved The Empire Strikes Back or The Goonies but I am old enough to comprehend that I don’t want you to share too many of my tastes, like it’d be cool to introduce you to The Empire Strikes Back or The Goonies.
I want to introduce you to movies and music and art and books that I like and be really OK with you not liking any of them. And I want you to introduce me to your world as well so that I can like everything you show me even I if really don’t.
I want to be like minded and not like minded.
I want to cuddle up next to you in whatever aftermath exists after our worlds collide.
Can I keep my mannequin? I own a mannequin. It’s dressed like a pirate if you like pirates. Occasionally I’m told I look pirate-ish so I hope you do.
I talk a lot but I think when I meet you I will be eager to listen.
I think I know everything but when I meet you I think I will be desperate to learn from you.
I am constantly telling the same stories over again but I think when I meet you I will be too busy making new stories with you to tell them anymore.
I don’t know though. Thinking is expecting and expectations aren’t always great.
I actually own 2 mannequins.
You know what…I can get rid of both mannequins.
Expectations may be dangerous…
But I desire things nonetheless.
I want to learn to cook for you.
I want to write you pretty bad poems that I think are really good.
I want to travel the world with you even though I have never been prone to wanderlust.
I want make you laugh.
I want you to make me laugh.
I want to sit in bed reading books with you.
I want to go to bed with you.
I want to wake up next to you.
I want to pray with you.
I want to serve in a church with you.
I want to be a part of one of those exclusive circle of friends that only married people can be in.
I want to be open to leaving that circle of friends if it gets too weird.
I want to argue about what song should be our first dance at our wedding because I already have some really good ideas.
I want to be completely OK with losing that argument because we have the rest of our lives to dance.
I want to slow dance at night after our kids go to bed.
I want to fast dance with our kids while decorating the Christmas tree and listening to British pop rock because for some reason the Beatles and Slade make me think of Christmas.
I want kids and I want to dance a lot.
And the occasional blanket fort.
I want to be OK with the reality that maybe none of this will happen but so long as your real and you are happy than I am happy.
I want beauty to become even more confusing and less explainable when I look at you.
I know that you will possess some other worldly beauty beyond any logical grasp.
I will see a girl painted by God with all the best colors with a metaphorical paintbrush made from a rib I never realized was missing until you make me feel whole.
– Your Future dude
p.s. Again, it’d be really cool if you exist. But no pressure.
I can honestly say that sort of took on a life of its own.
I didn’t intend to write a whole note to a person whom is currently only a dream in my mind at the moment. I think I meant for it to only say:
Dear future wife,
I hope you exist.
Just a funny little joke.
It’s kind of embarrassing. Kind of therapeutic. But if nothing else it is real.
And I think some may read it and hate it because it’s unrealistic and will accuse me as a consumer of too many rom coms and I think others will read it and love it because it’s possible and will sympathize with similar desires that seem too far away.
They are just words. But they make me feel alive. They all came pouring out from somewhere inside myself and I’m inclined to believe that something beautiful lies somewhere in there.
It could be just a note and nothing more that never finds a reader but I still think beauty exists in just my longing for it.
I think creation was and can still be wholly good so maybe there is beauty in my desires so long as those desires stand next to God in complete openness to His will.
Beauty has to exist in everything if we can be open to seeing it.
Or perhaps I slipped back into one of those bad seasons and am only justifying it.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I let this post sit over night and woke up and reread it.
Which is never fun.
I thought about deleting it because of the “future wife note” because maybe it’s too personal or too lame or too vulnerable or too uncool or just maybe too self-masturbatory towards my need to seem romantic and open to emotions.
But that’s caring too much about what people think. I want to be liked and people’s respect and admiration of me will always be a desire that lies somewhere inside.
I’m so not punk rock.
But deleting it feels too much like putting on a mask.
It feels fake
Beauty…I’m no closer to explaining it or my need and want for it.
Lewis was right in that no amount of words or study can ever bring us closer to the notion of beauty.
Maybe this post was futile from the start but it’s main purpose is to be a place for me to pour out the overflow of my head. So I don’t think it was a waste of time. Sorry if it wasted yours.
But the mere existence of beauty pushed an atheist named C.S. Lewis to consider something bigger than this world because I think beauty possesses the ability to open our eyes to the fact that things bigger than this world are all around us.
Beauty is one of them.
Love is one of them.
God is one of them.
They are beyond explanation.
They point beyond themselves.
Love, beauty and God are all intrinsically intertwined in my mind as these things that just deserve my desire.
And that’s enough.