Posts tagged Love
Beauty Heals
Photo by  Laura Skinner  

Photo by Laura Skinner 


I know I promised to write a part two from my last post on the vulgarity of our political space but wanted to share a piece I wrote from a challenge a friend of mine proposed -- to share a novel that impacted my life.  It supports my recent argument.

Here it is:  

My first book-impact happened in elementary school.  It was the first time a novel took me out of my own small world, living in Southern California.  And, it was the first time I fell in love with words. The book: "The Secret Garden," by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

Its message to me then and now:  BEAUTY HEALS!   

So the story goes, in one sentence, that when the orphaned Mary Lennox (wounded in heart) and her newly discovered cousin, Collin (wounded in body), transform an equally broken garden into a place of beauty, they are both restored, body and soul. 

Many times in my life, after the death of my first husband and after a host of devastating losses from a number of causes over my life, finding beauty was key to recovery.  One of those times, Darrell and I were in England, staying at England's top horticulturalist’s home. In his yard, overlooking Wales, there was a flower blooming that grew no where else (since he genetically engineered it). No one else on the planet ever saw it before, EVER, except for us. It literally took our breaths away - it was like this incredible beauty was reserved just for us to enjoy. We felt somehow chosen and humbled. Transcendent. 

Then there was the time when the trajectory of our life abruptly changed. Very scary! Yet, we found ourselves in the beauty of nature and each other, retreating from all the ways the world uses to gather value to itself. It was incredible and profound; and while I will never say, "yippie, yippie" to the causes that led us to this wonderful-terrible place, I am forever grateful for who we became and the beauty that so naturally finds us now. 

My and Darrell's, and Mary Lennox's experiences in the “garden" are such a contrast to the grisly grind of daily life today, where hatefulness underlies the collective conversation and is nearly fitting. It’s common and natural to hit back and be punitive, to be filled with “what-about-isms” to avoid listening or being responsible, to use partial truths, to be susceptible to intrigues and conspiracies, and to justify the end by whatever means. These habits prevent us from finding beauty around us and in each other. These habits are defined in one word, by beauty's opposite: vulgarity. 

The Greeks had a terrific word for vulgarity: apeirokalia, which is the lack of experience in things beautiful.  One hundred years ago Frances Burnett knew this - the Greeks knew this. It must be because humans default to vulgarity when they can no longer see the beauty in others. I know my experiences are my own, but there is something about changing our focus to find beauty that disallows vulgarity and hate. I truly believe that if we spend more time in the "garden" and take as many folks with us as will go, the experience would make it difficult to form those vulgar thoughts. And, if they could form, we'd instantly know they didn't belong. 


The Vulgarity of our Political Space & Acts of Suppression - Part One
Photo by  Mikael Kristenson  

"Contests naturally draw Company, and the Vulgar are justified in their Curiosity, if not Pity, when they see so many Wiser Men busie themselves to suppress a People."   William Penn - 1675

Conflict and fear excite interest; in fact, these excite many more neurons in a person's brain than peaceful conversations and peaceful events do.  It's only "natural", Penn thought.  And he was right.  Conflict is necessary for a good story (or we wouldn't waste our time watching a movie or reading a book).  The news wouldn't keep our interest long if reports were all tip-toeing-through-the-tulips.  (Though I wouldn't mind a day in the media of nothing but tulip sniffing.)  So what is the downside to the "contests" to which William Penn referred?  

Penn was saying that the use of conflict in the hands of these "wiser men" was designed to suppress opposition.  The ruckus drew a crowd.   He said it brought out the vulgarity of the "company," a potential mob.  They were the people who may have started with curiosity but end up vulgarized by their active participation.  This was what "wise men" needed to validate their acts and build support to suppress.   

In Penn's society people felt threatened by differences.  It was literally considered a security risk to disagree, to not conform to the party's point-of-view, never mind these dissenters were peaceful citizens.  Nonetheless, suppression and violence were legitimized to bring solidarity to the nation and its leaders.  The strategy involved devaluing "disagreeable" persons.  It was a necessary, else suppression and coercion would be noticeably improper.  I mean, how does one get away with destroying people’s lives, if they are, in fact, their loved neighbors and friends.  No!  They had to be "traitors, fanatics, and pigs" sent from the Pope in a secret conspiracy to destroy England.  Argh!  

Today, in America, our differences are hardened battle lines, just like in William Penn's day.  To dissent, even from your own group, is traitorous, just like it was then.  Questioning authority brings a discrediting campaign, just like it did then.  We'd rather skin people alive, one personal attack after another, instead of listen, just like... you get it. No one is curious about another's point of view, and yet, everyone has harsh opinions.  Otherwise good people can be turned into militant, sneering crowds, just by the mention of their "enemies's names."  

Unfortunately, this current "contest" in which America and the world are engaged, isn't for story telling sake.  There is no satisfying payoff to end this tale.  This is real American life in which we are unashamed to betray ourselves and each other.    

Somehow, it starts with the need to suppress; somehow it's "justified."  Just as Penn said it would be. 

We'll talk more about why next.  

 - Lorrie