Stopping in Our Tracks

This month’s theme is “beauty.” “Aesthetics” have to do with feeling (anesthetic = no feeling). We can describe what we find beautiful, but there is no logical explanation. The film American Beauty features beautiful footage of a plastic bag, blowing around on a blustery day,which one of the characters finds painfully beautiful. Personal tastes and cultural norms about what is beautiful vary extravagantly.

The words “beauty” and “beautiful” do not occur in the Unitarian Universalist principles or sources, yet our experiences of mystery and wonder often have an aesthetic component. I believe beauty to be essential to the life of the spirit. A stunning view or a radiant smile can anchor us in the present moment, while memories of verdant landscapes or songs or starry skies or stained glass windows come to us, as Wordsworth wrote, in the “bliss of solitude”: “and then my heart with pleasure fills/and dances with the daffodils.”

When I walk around my neighborhood, I often take photos. I don’t think about it much: something makes me stop walking to gaze, frame, and shoot. Sometimes it’s a back-lit cloud formation, sometimes a majestic facade, often a tree or foliage or flowers. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Beauty is what stops us in our tracks.

What comes to mind when you think of your experience of beauty? What images or natural phenomena seize your attention? How do they make you feel? Do you ever seek beauty for solace or inspiration? Where do you most reliably find it? Let me know what you think, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!