In this morning’s paper I came across a story about a man who lives in an apartment in mid-town Manhattan. His place is located next door to a vacant storefront and every day on his way to work he walks past the dingy old abandoned store with bars on its windows; but recently a ballet company moved into that old store, so now when the man walks to work he passes by a host of beautiful ballerinas dancing in the windows.
In today’s news article, the man described how simply walking past those elegant ballerinas every day has literally changed his outlook on life. He has discovered that he arrives at work refreshed and renewed because beauty visits his soul on his way to work every day.
Nowadays lots of people are very concerned about what they eat - they count calories, cut back on the gluten and never eat junk food or fast food. After reading today’s article I wondered if more of us need to be just as concerned about the daily diet of soul-food we consume. If we turn on the TV or browse through the social media and constantly consume a daily diet of ugliness, hate speech, vile insults, images of war and terror, bombings and beheadings, then that’s what we feed our souls. If, every day we see and hear only the bleakness of life, barred up windows and empty store fronts, then this is how we feed our souls – a steady diet of junk food for the soul.
Like the man in the newspaper today, maybe we all need to make an intentional effort to find a healthier soul food diet- a diet brimming with beauty to refresh and nourish drooping spirits.
The poet, John O’Donohue once wrote:
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
into the warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace.
It unites us again with neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.
Beauty elicits a sense of completion in us.
I think about that fellow in Mid-town Manhattan whose whole perspective on life changed because he walks past a room filled with dancing ballerinas rather than a dingy store with barred up windows. It seems to me that Beauty called out to him and he answered the call. Beauty has indeed united him with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.
I feel very blessed to be living out here in this desert – for me it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every morning when I get up at dawn I sit quietly in my garden and I feed my soul, I listen for the “call” of Beauty. I breathe in the crisp morning air as the bright sun rises in clear blue skies above purple-colored mountains in the horizon. The scene is sometimes so beautiful as to almost be painful - too much to handle all at once.
Some may say, "Yes you are blessed to live in such a beautiful place, so of course you can fill your soul with Beauty every day." But, as I see it, you certainly don’t need to live in a desert to consume the Beauty of a healthy soul-food diet. Regardless of where any of us lives or what our circumstances in life, Beauty is always all around us, always calling us to be united with the forgotten grandeur of life- we just need to pay closer attention to the call.
Beauty calls in the sparkling crystals of ice on a window pane on a winter’s day. Beauty calls in the brightness of the sun from which so many people shelter themselves as they close their shades. Beauty calls in the voices and the faces of the people we may pass on the way to work or school, but fail to hear or see because we are too busy thinking about our agenda for the day ahead. Beauty calls in the smile of the innocent child sitting nearby in that coffee shop who we basically ignore because our heads are buried in smart-phones and computers.
It seems to me that the world is full of healthy soul food - we just need to be more intentional about seeking it out and taking it in.
I am reminded of one of my favorite Zen sayings:
I play with flowers and their fragrance clings to my clothes
Instead of living every day playing in dirt and in the trash, I want to live my life by playing with the flowers – I smell a lot better that way.