Going through some old research papers recently, I came across an essay by David Brooks, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times. Brooks’ piece, entitled “When Beauty Strikes,” got me to thinking about how aware I’ve been of the beauty in my own life. As an example, Brooks tells of leaving his apartment in early evening and passing by the windows of a ballet school. Through the glass he watches and soon becomes mesmerized by the unison of the dancers in their white pointe shoes and tutus as they glide across the dance floor. Millions more had the same reaction just this last week when witnessing the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918.
During family gatherings, my kids and I sometimes share memorable moments from our daily travels – times when our spirits have been elevated to a higher level of joy by some sight or sound of sublime beauty. These extraordinary, ordinary experiences may include sunrises amid a starlit morning sky, the first delicate snowflakes of winter, a deserted ocean beach lapped by azure waves and a horizon topped by pink cotton-candy clouds — all perfect settings in which to contemplate the universe. Such potent sensory experiences live in our minds and can affect our attitudes toward the world for a lifetime.
In these days of division and uncertainty, it seems the search for beauty in our lives is more critical than ever. Taking time to observe nature’s wonders can help us rebalance our waning levels of optimism and hope. I’ve noticed that recollection of such experiences of beauty brings much welcome serenity to my days.
In his book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, author John O’Donohue writes:
“Beauty does not linger, it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think, and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful.”