Saturday, October 22, 2022

On Beauty

I recently listened to a great Ezra Klein podcast featuring Chloé Cooper Jones, the author of the memoir Easy Beauty. I haven't read the book yet, but it's next on my "to-read" pile after another memoir I just picked up, Solito. (Yes, the memoir is my favorite literary genre!)

A lot of moments stood out to me in the interview, and, of course, I listened to it a few weeks ago, so I don't remember much. 

But I do remember one point she made.

She said we sometimes feel weird when we don't experience beauty and awe in places and spaces where it's more-or-less expected, but instead, experience them in some inconspicuous moment. For instance, you might have just visited the Louvre, seen the Mona Lisa for the first time, but it's outside the museum, watching a pigeon pecking at food crumbs that moves you to tears.

I also copied down this quote from Chloé during the interview:

Beauty gives us an opportunity to step outside the palace of self-regard.

Well, if that isn't humbling! It was made even more humbling because I listened while taking a walk in downtown Erie, in and around our ministries and up to State Street (the street that divides the city into east and west). I saw a family—mother, father, and son—whose children I taught at daycare. And I wondered, why were they walking all the way up 10th Street during the school day. And I saw a couple who eats at the soup kitchen across the street from me, and we waved at each other while cars passed by. And I saw a pile of belongings from another man who comes to eat with us from time-to-time, all his belongings in the nook of a doorway on 11th. He wasn't there, but his things were; I knew it was his stuff because I've seen him there, spending away the hours—in that nook. The thing that killed me was the green top of a fresh pineapple, just the top, now wilted and brown. And his dirty stuffed tiger.

Chloé also said, of the experience of experiencing beauty:

I am broken out of the prison of myself.

We know it well. Stare at a full moon in the clear sky. Watch children playing in a fountain. Take in a field of delicate, bright wildflowers. Find the top of a pineapple of a homeless person you know on the street. See how your ego melts away.

How good and how pleasant it is
when all people dwell in unity. (Psalm 133)

And, of course, I'd beautiful.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

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