Rilke wrote his Duino elegies so that he might illuminate the space between humans and angels, understand their differences. He believed, as I do, that human beings are alive so that they might experience the beauty of ordinary things, something Neruda also knew as truth, something I feel in my bones. I don’t think we humans are meant to be fierce warriors, engaging in the violent exercise of power. I believe in the strength of peace rather than the power of war. I don’t think we should act like dragons, roaring fire and dragging the glittering jewels we can find into our separate caves so we can sit atop them, hoping, I suppose, that all that glitter will hatch more gleam.
But what to do? Those who refuse to engage with the brutality so celebrated in our warrior society, who prefer to walk in nature, breathing gardens and dreamings, are cast aside as weaklings, described as unwilling to confront the evil, unveil the ugliness, but there is so much ugliness in our world that if we spend our time describing it, we only shore it up, make it more visible, even more acceptable. I can’t believe we should make art that focuses primarily on ugliness. I don't want to go on and on, bristling about remorseless pain and convulsive activities meant to display power or ensure control. Perhaps the only real power or control we can ever have comes to us through an awareness and assimilation of beauty.
A brush of sunlight on an otherwise drab industrial wall, a bit of trash hovering about filthy streets on the updraft of a gusty winter wind. Beauty. A blue crease in aging flesh, almost a memory of infancy. Beauty. A bird chirping on a street awash in traffic noise. Beauty. A poppy unfolding is often more beautiful than one with all petals smoothed to the sun. A bare winter twig with a single dried leaf is as beautiful as one with swelling buds. A lone rock on a green field. Beauty. A child asleep with open hands. Beauty. A hubcap tacked next to an open door, its center painted red. Beauty.
If we understand beauty as that invisible yet shimmering border between the expected and the unexpected, we know that border is fragile, easily missed or broken and if the awareness of those edges, the space between, is 'power,' it is the the power of grace, the letting go, knowing that seeing is not having; feeling has nothing to do with possession. Grace is grace precisely because it evaporates. The spark caused by any sudden unexpected clash of difference burns brightly, illuminating the life, and then is absorbed into the void.