"Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New"
- a desert sunrise -
It seems somewhat odd to me that I should write a daily blog on the topic of “spirituality” and yet be so hesitant to use the word “God” in my articles. The problem is that this word carries so much baggage with it.
Whether you are a fervent believer or a committed atheist, the word “God" often comes across as the name of a particular person: “Mr. God,” the guy who lives at an address with a heavenly zip code, up there and out there, separated from and in control of everything that goes on in the world down below. This idea of God as a super-being who lives at a heavenly address is precisely what atheists or agnostics reject and so when the word “God” is used, it sets off all manner of alarms and raises all sorts of “red flags.”
When I use the word “God” I never think of it as a person’s proper name (I also don’t believe that “God” is a separated and supernatural “man in the sky”.) As I see it, “God” is a Holy Presence, the abiding energy of Love at the core of everyone and everything that “is.” Interestingly enough, in the Hebrew tradition the word “God” is never spoken nor can it be written because “God” is an unfathomable mystery that cannot be contained in letters or limited by a given name.
Throughout the Bible the “transcendent presence” known as “God” is given many names – “God” is called a King or a Father, “God” is also referred to as a Wind and Breath, or as Fire and Flame, and "God" is also given the name “Love.” But all these words for “God” are never the proper names of a specific person. They are words that help us “get at” some vague idea of the Great Mystery that we can never contain by giving it a name or an address.
I recently came across an article written by the poet Gregory Orr who suggested that another name for “God” is Beauty:
One of the terms we poets use in our considerable effort
to avoid religious or spiritual terminology is
Of course, no one can define the word or everybody defines it differently
and yet we believe in it.
Beauty is an article of faith among poets.
I think we try to sidestep religion
and ‘Beauty’ is a word we use to do that.
The more I think about it, I really like the word “Beauty” as another name for “God.”
The desert where I live is an exquisitely beautiful place especially in this “autumn season.” Now as the temperatures grow cooler day by day I am able to walk out into the wilderness as I view a morning sunrise over the eastern mountains or bask in the evening light of a rising moon. In this autumn season in the desert, seasonal flowers are beginning to spring up in my garden and along the trails, and the air smells so fresh and so clean. It’s such a beautiful season of the year.
But of course you don’t need to live in a desert to encounter “Beauty” every day. Regardless of where any of us may live, “Beauty” might be revealed in many ways, in the innocent look on a child’s face or maybe in the sound of autumn leaves crushing on the ground as you walk to work or school, or maybe Beauty may be met in the sparkling crystals of ice on a window pain of a winter’s day.
Beauty is everywhere, always available to all of us who have the eyes to see. We all know Beauty when we encounter it and never have to prove that is is real. Maybe that’s why I like this word so much as another name for God.
The poet John O’Donohue once said:
The word for beautiful comes from the Greek word ‘to call.’
When we experience beauty we feel called.
The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us
and calls us forth from aloneness.
It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.
Beauty elicits a sense of completion is us.
Today as I re-read this wonderful ode to “Beauty," whenever I came across the word “Beauty” I replaced it with the word ‘God,” and I became more and more convinced that Beauty is indeed another name for God.