Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recommitting to beauty

I am overwhelmed by the number of bloggers writing about living with chronic illness. I bump into them right and left. My monster mind says, "See? You're not special. You're a dime a dozen.No point in adding your voice to the clamor. Just be quiet."

Poor little monster, so determined to be unique in the world.

 I look at pottery made by prehistoric artisans. Graceful forms. Lovely designs.They needed bowls and pitchers and canteens. That's practical. We understand that, my monster mind and I.

They needed beauty. There is where the monster and I stumble.

Why beauty? Beauty is useless. Beauty is selfish.

After a Google meander, I found an answer I like:

"The soul needs beauty because through the experience of it the soul becomes aware of its own existence" writes Rev. Lilli Nye, after noting in her sermon suggestions of animals appreciating beauty. "Our deep selves are awakened by feeling. We are able to touch something of the vastness of our being, the vastness of the universal community in which we reside."

Translating into my own shorthand, she is saying beauty is a path to God.

Nye goes on to quote Robert McAfee Brown, explaining how our instinct for beauty connects with a call to social justice:

How can [concern for] beauty and [concern for] oppression be understood together?
For us the question is, How can they be understood separately?
Concern for beauty is not a moral cop-out. It leads us firmly into the midst of all that is going on in our world.

Where beauty is apparent, we are to enjoy it.
Where there is beauty hidden, we are to unveil it.
Where there is beauty defaced, we are to restore it.
Where there is no beauty at all, we are to create it.

All of which places us in the arena where oppression occurs, where the oppressed congregate, and where we too are called to be.

Beauty connects us to God and, where we notice its hiddeness, defacement and absence, it calls us to service.

The mind-boggling acceleration of user-produced content on the Internet has been identified, pejoratively, as "The Cult of the Amateur." Here we are, millions of us, producing blogs and videos and publishing books.

Did the ancient artisans have monster minds who sneered, "everybody makes bowls. You're a dime a dozen. Don't waste the clay"?

They made their beautiful bowls, graceful in form and lovely to behold. They used them to carry water and hold food. By making them they connected to the divine and were called to serve. All these years later, we don't know their names but we are connected to them through beauty.

So here I am, making my 21st century bowls. I use them to carry thoughts and hold ideas. By making them, I connect to God and am called to serve.

I hope to make them beautiful.


Judith Westerfield said...

I just connected to your blog. I have had several women with MS in the workshops and will share your blog and book with them. I think you will be a great resource.
I am also going to put up a link to you -- I will guess that's fine! If not let me know.
I love your philosophy, your insight that you share and the strength you are providing others through your own journey
PS. I will be glad to share any materials I use with you.

Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

Thank you for your kind words. Any links are appreciated.

You've helped me put words to a goal I have for myself: to be a great resource for folks living with chronic illness.

I've been enjoying reading your blog. (Congratulations on having a stupendous following!) Your workshops/groups look wonderful.

I'd love to see materials you use. Best to e-mail them to me at

Thanks for the day brightner and for all you do!