Only in the light of beauty can we come to see what is really present.
– John O’Donohue
Most of us have had breathtaking experiences in nature. Perhaps watching a brilliant sunrise or sunset, or gazing at a seemingly endless ocean where sea and sky blend into one horizon, or
soaking in a panoramic view from a mountain top, or witnessing a field of wildflowers in kaleidoscope hues, or imbibing the brilliant fall-colors of deciduous foliage in New England, or watching waves of wind ripple over a wheat or corn field, or observing the beauty of a cerulean warbler or that of your favorite songbird…
Witnessing something stunningly beautiful arrests our
attention. Like a rich musical chord, beauty vibrates through us. Time stands still, mundane thoughts and concerns evaporate, and we become totally enraptured with beauty before us. Beauty elicits awe and wonder and captures our full-presence. Beauty inspires us. It gives us hope. It fires our imagination. It opens our thought to embrace infinite possibilities. It shines a light enabling us to see that which we love. Beauty invites a reverence for something larger than ourselves. It spurs us to consider who we are and why we are here…
In the past, I think I have had a rather surface concept of beauty as something that gives aesthetic pleasure to the senses, something external: some things have it and some don’t.
Having spent the better part of seven months on the
ocean, however, I have come to see beauty in a new light, or more seizingly – beauty as light – a light that illumines what we love and enlightens dormant qualities: qualities ever-present yet patiently awaiting the inspiration to awaken into sight. To stand in awe of beauty, I am realizing, is to unleash the beauty that exists within. For if it didn’t exist within, we wouldn’t recognize it, and it would be impossible for us to stand in awe of it.
John O’Donohue said: “Only in the light of beauty can we come to see what is really present.”
Recognizing beauty is like turning on a light in a dark room; it enables us to see what has always been there. It invites us to pause, squelch the clutter around us and bring ourselves fully to the moment – recognizing what is. Some call this being here now, or meditation, or spiritual vision, or prayer, or, simply – presence. Whatever we call it, beauty shines light that enables us to see it. Beauty elicits it, draws it fourth, and invites us to simply be present with it – now.
As I near the end of my solo portion of this amazing ocean odyssey, I am grateful for having experienced a profound sense of beauty as light – a light illuminating what it means to be fully
present. Prior to this journey, I would often find myself trying to be more present, less distracted. Being present was often an external objective, an elusive goal. I am finding, however, as my thought shifts from a desire to be more present to simply standing in awe of the deep well of beauty around and within me, I am finding myself naturally drawn to being more present.
Rumi said: “Let the beauty we love, be what we do.” Beauty is the driver. I am along for the ride,
– a ride not as a passive passenger but as a co-creator – recognizing beauty, not as an add on to life, but rather the light of life itself. Beauty provides a window into eternity, into our heart’s and soul’s deepest longing to love and be loved. Beauty elevated to this level, draws us to be present here and now. And our presence, bearing witness to beauty’s light, is a beacon the world desperately needs today…
Cultivating a deeper sense of beauty can inspire a deeper love for our environment and our dying oceans, – a love that can inspire us to action. The protection of beautiful natural areas is not the sole responsibility of environmentalists; it is a duty that belongs to each of us – to everyone who cares enough to gaze into the eyes of Earth’s children and who cares enough to act to protect their future.
For an inexpensive trip to the Bahamas and an inspiring aerial view of sheer aquatic beauty, check out this link to Bahamas footage filmed by my son Jonathan.
Below is a send-off blessing for my ocean journey from two dear friends: Mason and JJ. Note: John O’Donohue referred to his compilation of poetic writings as blessings.
For A New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
– John O’Donohue
Reflect for a moment on words or a phrase in the above blessing that resonates for you… Pause to consider its light and what it illumines within…
Should you like to ponder the relationship of beauty and presence more deeply, here are two books you might like to check out:
- Beauty: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope by John Donohue
- To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue
- Did you know that the color of any object we see is the color the object has rejected? The colors we cannot see are the ones the object absorbs. A crimson cardinal, for example, absorbs yellow and blue light and rejects red. So, we see a cardinal as red. We might look
at a chunk of stationary pink granite and think that it is lying still. One of the great illusions of the physical world, physicists point out, is that there is stillness. What appears still to our eyes is in fact never still. The physical world is in a constant state of electromagnetic vibration. Every object we see is flowing in these electromagnetic waves. Our eyes pick
up only a small portion of this vibrating wave-world – what we call visible light which is a small selection of the full spectrum of what exists, but is not visible to us. Visible light composes only one-tenth of the whole light spectrum. When we see all visible light together it is white. We have all seen this in the prism of raindrops forming a rainbow in the sky. So, back to the granite, why is it pink? Every object pulses to a certain frequency and the hunger of this frequency determines how much color is absorbed. This frequency also fillets out a specific color from the spectrum of light – which is the color of the object our eyes see (pp. 86 and 87 – Beauty: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity and Hope).
- Did you know that the human eye can see [essentially] only one octave (the white light spectrum), but the human ear can hear up to ten octaves. Perhaps, our ears can teach our eyes how to expand their view of beauty…