I’m moved by beauty in ways nothing else can move me. I suppose I could say that about many sources of inspiration, but it makes it no less true. Beauty beckons me home. It continually reminds me there is something more significant, more solid, more lasting than what I experience in everyday life. It usually happens most powerfully when two key elements collide- when I’m saturated in the magnificence of the created order and have entered a stillness of soul. It takes both, not one or the other: intense beauty and intentional stillness of soul. It’s there I’ve entered momentarily into eternity and have been scarred by its beauty.
Many years ago, my wife and I were living in Northern Ireland. She was heading back to the US to attend her sister’s wedding for a week, so I decided to explore and escape into nowhere for a few days. I gathered all of my camping gear, grabbed the dog, threw everything into the car and headed south west. I drove four hours to a little strip of land off the far west coast of County Mayo, Ireland. After locating a prime strip of isolated beach, I set up camp on the heights of a sand dune and entered the stillness. The beach offered a stark beauty, equally matched to the sea’s fierce beauty. The continual crashing of the waves, solitary cry of the sea birds, and low growl of the wind were a lullaby of the natural kind. Three days of beach living offered me opportunity to catch up on sleep, read, think deeply, dream and listen. It was a wonderful and difficult time that unwound my tense and uptight soul.
The challenge being alone met me face-to-face in the absence of looking into the eyes of another who knew me. I was camping on the beach alone, and had only seen another human from three hundred yards away on the odd occasion. I made a solitary stop at a local grocery store, which afforded me another brief encounter. However, all told, I was alone. Alone for three days. While I brought some interesting and engaging distractions, there was little to satiate my desire to engage with another human being. Now, I didn’t reach the ‘Cast Away’ stage and talk to a piece of driftwood or a lost volleyball, but I did talk. My only companion for trip, our pure bred golden lab Abby, wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but she was an excellent listener. I talked to her often. I also talked with God.. and He listened too.
The combined impact that beauty and stillness have on a soul is some kind of magic. Together they afford us an opportunity, and the opportunity is to reorient our lives. When it comes, this opportunity isn’t given to simply redirect our focus, energy and resources into another empty endeavor, but it’s to reorient our lives around unchanging principles, priorities and practices. What precedes this gift of opportunity? The gift before the gift is clarity, vision. It’s like Christmas morning when you unwrap a small package of batteries before being given your much larger wrapped gift (that thing you REALLY wanted) that requires them. Clarity usually only comes to us in short, brief moments like a hummingbird to a bright red feeder before vanishing out of sight. The gift of clarity must be acted upon immediately or it’s often lost. I hear the ‘Act Now!’ infomercial voice in my head, but in this case it’s true.. putting clarity into practice makes it real.. births it into reality. Oftentimes, however, we know the good we ought to do but seldom bring ourselves to do it.
Read Pt. 2 Here